FDA Finalizes Rules Designed to Prevent Food Poisoning Outbreaks

FDA Finalizes Rules Designed to Prevent Food Poisoning Outbreaks
Food Safety Contamination

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently finalized rules designed to prevent outbreaks of foodborne illness caused by contaminated produce that sicken millions of Americans each year. The rules establish safety standards for produce farms and hold importers accountable for verifying that foods brought into the country meet U.S. safety standards.

The safety regulations for fruit and vegetable farms and food importers were designed as a result of the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011.

“These rules, for the first time, establish enforceable safety standards of production and harvesting of produce, and make importers accountable for the safety of the food they bring into the United States,” Michael Taylor, FDA deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, said during a Friday morning news conference. [1]

Taylor says the new requirements were necessary in the wake of food poisoning outbreaks caused by leafy greens, cantaloupes, cilantro and other produce.

“A recent outbreak of salmonella in imported cucumbers killed four Americans and sent more than 157 to the hospital,” he said. “These outbreaks are just the kind of food safety problems today’s rules are meant to prevent.”

Growers affected by the regulations will face a long list of new responsibilities, including ensuring the safety of irrigation water, monitoring workers for good hygiene while harvesting and packing, and keeping deer and other wildlife away from crops so their waste doesn’t contaminate the produce. [2]

Jim Gorny, vice president for food safety and technology for the Produce Marketing Association, a national trade group that largely supported the FDA’s efforts, says that many U.S. fruit and vegetable growers already adhere to the new standards. The rules are essentially a set of best practices that will apply to most farms and packing houses.

“A rising tide lifts all boats, and everybody going to have a minimum standard they’ll have to abide by,” Gorny said. “This is certainly a big step forward.”

Certain people and certain foods are exempt from the new rules, including farms with average annual sales of $25,000 or less, and farms that make less than $500,000 a year and sell mainly to consumers within a 275-mile radius. Although small farms will have to comply with the rules, they will be given longer to do so.

Pecans, peppermint, potatoes and pumpkins are exempt from the new rules, in addition to numerous other pieces of produce that are usually cooked or processed prior to consuming. Papayas, parsnips, passion fruit, peaches, pears, peas and peppers are covered. [3]

Additionally, the new rules will enable accredited independent auditors to conduct food safety inspections of foreign food facilities, and the FDA will have the power to require certification that foods imports are safe.

Two more rules are set to be finalized next year; one concerns food transportation, and the other deals with intentional contamination of food.

Sources:

[1] Philly.com

[2] Fox News

[3] The Washington Post