One Step Closer to Safer Food
by Katie Greenhaw, 1/9/2013
Two years after Congress passed the Food Safety Modernization Act, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has finally proposed rules that will give the law life and allow the agency to enforce standards to thwart foodborne illnesses. (Currently, about 48 million Americans fall ill from contaminated food each year, and 3,000 die.)
The new safeguards will allow the FDA to do more than just react after people get sick; it will require producers to develop plans to actively prevent contaminated food from getting to grocery store shelves.
Here’s an example of the difference a preventive strategy makes: in 2011, when Listeria contamination in cantaloupes claimed 33 lives, FDA officials could not act until after the outbreak occurred. They tracked the melons to a farm where they found pooled dirty water and old and unhygienic processing equipment. The new rules require farm workers to use clean water to irrigate crops, to wash their hands often, use sanitary processing equipment, and to keep animals (and their waste) a safe distance from crops. These are common sense standards that, if effectively implemented, will make our food system safer.
The comment period on these proposed rules is now open. We strongly encourage you to let the FDA know that you support strong protections for food safety. Just head over to Regulations.gov to submit your comments (on Docket No. FDA-2011-N-0920 and Docket No. FDA-2011-N-0921), then stay tuned to our blog for the latest developments.