Associations Collaborate with Government on Food-Safety Law
The federal government is working to implement the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act, with help from associations aiming to align food safety with industry needs.
It may have taken a little time, but America is finally getting serious about foodborne illnesses.
The Obama administration last week issued two major regulatory proposals that would implement the the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act, Bloomberg reported. The regulatory framework will represent the biggest change to food industry oversight since 1938, and associations are playing a role.
One of the proposals would give companies that sell food in the U.S. one year to develop a formal plan for preventing the causes of foodborne illnesses. The other would require produce farms that have a high risk of contamination to develop new hygienic protocols.
Concerns about food safety have grown substantially after a series of foodborne illness outbreaks were linked to tainted meats and other foods (such as peanuts, spinach, and even cookie dough) in recent years.
“The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act is a commonsense law that shifts the food safety focus from reactive to preventive,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in an FDA statement. “With the support of industry, consumer groups, and the bipartisan leadership in Congress, we are establishing a science-based, flexible system to better prevent foodborne illness and protect American families.”
The numbers are daunting: According to the FDA, one in six Americans suffer from a foodborne illness annually, and about 3,000 die. The new regulations aim to improve public health, reduce medical costs, and alleviate the widespread panic—and disruptions in the nation’s food system—that happen when a foodborne illness circulates.
Several associations, such as the United Fresh Produce Association, a trade group for the fruit and vegetable industry, and the Produce Marketing Association are working with the FDA on the new regulations.
The National Milk Producers Federation, for example, has submitted comments on user fees authorized under the act to fund the FDA’s enforcement activities. It urged the agency to revisit the proposed fee structure, considering the fees’ impact on small businesses.
Still to come: More rules on imported goods.
The proposed rules are available for public comment for 120 days.