A year after President Obama signed the Food Safety Modernization Act into law, the FDA has finally released two new rules that experts say update food safety regulations for the 21st century.
The regulations are aimed at reducing the estimated 3,000 annual deaths from foodborne illnesses. The FDA's first rule proposes that food companies and firms specifically write out plans to identify potential hazards and the necessary steps to address those hazards. Firms must also verify that those methods are working, outlining correction plans for any problems that may arise.
"The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act is a common sense law that shifts the food safety focus from reactive to preventive," said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a press release. Thus the second part of the law established standards for safe growing, harvesting, packing, and holding of produce.
Proposals include water system inspections at the beginning of each growing season, set procedures for using animal composted manure, plus mandatory sanitation facilities for farm workers. Furthermore, basic hygiene practices for workers and sanitation standards for equipment, tools, and buildings have also been spelled out.
While most of these practices have already been implemented in major food companies, the AP reports, the FDA's deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine Mike Taylor called these rules the start of "a new era. We should have fewer outbreaks, fewer illness, and less disruption of the food supply."
Consumers Union has applauded these changes, especially as focus shifts to prevention. "Under the old rules, we’ve been reacting to food contaminations after they happened. The goal here is to prevent deadly outbreaks before people get hurt. We’re anxious to dive deep into these proposed rules so we can review and comment on the details," Ami Gadhia of Consumers Union said in a release.
More rules regarding the safety of imported food will be released in the upcoming months, Taylor told USA Today. The full text of the law can be read on FDA's website.