The FDA moves to ensure food safety, especially from overseas.

by Andrew Schneider on January 4, 2013

The Food and Drug Administration wasted little time in 2013 in implementing changes that should protect consumers from pathogens that can enter our food supply anywhere along the ever-lengthening path from farm to the kitchen table.

The two new proposed food safety rules “will protect American families for years to come,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg said at a press briefing Friday.

One rule would require makers of food to be sold in the U.S., whether produced at a foreign- or domestic facility, to develop a formal plan for preventing their food products from causing illness. In addition, growers, producers, packers, shippers and sellers of all food products must have detailed, written plans for identifying and then correcting any food safety problems that arise.

The inclusion of foreign suppliers in the proposed rule is cheered by many food safety advocates who note food from abroad has risen to between 15 percent to 28 percent of meats, produce and other foods filling grocery shelves.

There is vivid evidence that food safety screening overseas is often hit or miss, safety investigators say.

The agency says it will soon issue additional rules for importers demanding they verify that food products grown or processed overseas are as safe as domestically produced food.

And pet lovers, who have anguished over numerous recalls of domestic and foreign-produced pet food, should praise the FDA’s plans to demand that facilities producing animal food be required to follow the same preventive measures as for food consumed by humans.

The second proposed rule proposes safety standards for the production and harvesting of produce on farms. This rule calls for science- and risk-based standards for the safe production and harvesting of fruits and vegetables.

Last year, in researching what changes were needed, the FDA conducted five federal public meetings and regional, state, and local meetings in 14 states across the country as well as making hundreds of presentations to the diverse industries involved. The FDA also visited farms and facilities of varying sizes.

“We know one-size-fits-all rules won’t work,” said Mike  Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine.

“We’ve worked to develop proposed regulations that can be both effective and practical across today’s diverse food system.”

The proposed rules implement the landmark, bipartisan FDA Food Safety Modernization Act and are available for public comment for the next 120 days.

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