FDA Cracking Down on Dangerous Food Imports
by Matthew Madia, 5/6/2011
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued two new standards May 4 intended to protect Americans from potentially contaminated foreign food. From the agency:
The first rule strengthens FDA’s ability to prevent potentially unsafe food from entering commerce. It allows the FDA to administratively detain food the agency believes has been produced under insanitary or unsafe conditions. Previously, the FDA’s ability to detain food products applied only when the agency had credible evidence that a food product presented was contaminated or mislabeled in a way that presented a threat of serious adverse health consequences or death to humans or animals. [...]
The second rule requires anyone importing food into the United States to inform the FDA if any country has refused entry to the same product, including food for animals. This new requirement will provide the agency with more information about foods that are being imported, which improves the FDA’s ability to target foods that may pose a significant risk to public health.
These are the kinds of commonsense safeguards that we should expect from our government. If a government scientist or other expert suspects that food could be dangerous, he or she should be able to check it out. And at the risk of sounding ignorantly American, if food isn’t good enough for another country, it shouldn’t be good enough for the U.S.
Foodborne illness sickens one in six Americans, hospitalizes 128,000, and kills 3,000 every year, according to the CDC. It’s one of those hazards that we can’t be expected to protect ourselves from without help – help that can come in the form of safeguards established by the FDA and other agencies.
The standards, both issued as interim final rules, are the first display of FDA’s enhanced rulemaking authority provided by the Food Safety Modernization Act, a sweeping food safety reform package signed into law in January after months of legislative deal-making. The rules are effective July 3.