January 4, 2013 — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed two new rules that would give it greater authority to prevent outbreaks of food poisoning. A major goal of the overhaul is to prevent outbreaks from occurring instead of tracking them down after they begin. The proposed rules implement the Food Safety Modernization Act, which Congress passed in 2010 in the wake of several massive, deadly outbreaks of food poisoning.
The first rule would require manufacturers who process raw foods to implement measures to reduce the risk of food contamination. They will be required to evaluate hazards, take steps to minimize those hazards, and keep records of the monitoring that the FDA could potentially audit.
The second rule addresses food contamination in agriculture. Farmers would be required to establish rules to ensure that bacteria commonly found in feces does not contaminate food. This typically occurs through contaminated water, unhygienic workers, wildlife, manure of farm animals in growing fields, and contaminated processing equipment.
The FDA is also considering new rules for food importers, because a large proportion of the vegetables and fruits that Americans eat are imported from other countries.
The FDA will likely need to impose about 50 new regulations, and they food industry has stated that they are currently evaluating the impact of the rules. Businesses could face additional costs to implement protections, if they have not already done so voluntarily. Some types of foods would be more impacted than others — lettuce and sprouts, for example. Foods that are cooked to an internal temperature that kills bacteria, such as potatoes, would not be subject to the new rules.
The new rules have come in the wake of several massive food poisoning outbreaks that have been linked to sprouts, cantaloupes, peanut butter, mangoes, and more. The FDA estimates that one in six Americans is sickened by food poisoning every year, of whom 130,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die.
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