FDA Wants to Revise Food Safety Regulations

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was passed in 2011, but it has yet to be fully enacted. And as of last month, the FDA announced plans to revise rules for its implementation after getting complaints by the agricultural industry that the food safety rules proposed earlier this year are too harsh.

The FSMA was devised to improve the safety of the U.S. food supply and to prevent such outbreaks of food-borne illness as we’ve seen in recent years attributed to peanut butter, cantaloupes and spinach. The revisions to the act, according to the FDA are a response to thousands of comments and feedback from public meetings where farmers and food-industry experts were well-represented.

As explained by AboutLawsuits.com, the FDA proposed the rules in May, primarily for four key areas: produce safety, preventive controls for human food, preventive controls for animal food, and foreign supplier verification. The FDA is the agency that defines the regulations that put the law into effect.

The proposed revisions to the regulations announced in May include relaxing provisions for water quality testing because not all water sources yield the same product – there are natural variations in water composition. Changes also include how the FDA analyzes manure and compost used on crops. (You might recall that the E. coli episode in 2006 related to spinach was caused by contamination from a cattle ranch.) FDA officials said research about the issue is ongoing.

That’s hardly reassuring. About 76 million food-borne illnesses occur each year in the U.S., and although most aren’t life-threatening, more than 300,000 people are hospitalized, and 5,000 die.

Regulatory revisions also concern which farms would be subject to the produce safety rules.

Those with $25,000 or less in sales of produce wouldn’t be subject to the restrictions. Initially, farms with $25,000 in total sales of all food produced were exempt. So that focus is on crops, not end products.

The revisions simplify which businesses are covered by the produce safety rule and which are covered by preventive control rules.

Although most of the recent outbreaks of food-borne illness that got media attention were caused by domestic businesses, many people are concerned about the safety of food from foreign countries. The regulatory revisions concern the foreign supplier verification rule. They would allow importers to be more flexible in determining appropriate measures to verify the quality of suppliers, based on risk and their previous experience with the suppliers.

To read more about the FSMA, link here. To comment on the revisions to the regulations that would implement the act, link here, enter your search terms on the home page and check the box in the search area that reads, “Open for comment.” The FDA is accepting comments on the new proposed revisions for another couple of months, and will issue final rules in 2015.

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