Stakeholders Point to Progress As Landmark Food Safety Law Marks Third Anniversary

Major Implementation Challenges Remain

February 6, 2014

President Barack Obama signed legislation giving the Food and Drug Administration broad new powers to combat foodborne illness a little more than three years ago. While much more needs to be done to implement the landmark legislation, stakeholders from consumer groups, growers, and regulators celebrated the third birthday for the law at a briefing for congressional staff. The briefing comes as a new Harris poll finds that 73 percent of Americans surveyed want stronger government oversight over food safety.

Many important provisions of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act are already in full effect. For instance, the agency now has the authority to recall contaminated food, if companies fail to recall tainted products voluntarily. The law authorizes FDA to administratively detain products that might be a food safety hazard, and to suspend the registration of any food processing or manufacturing facility if FDA believes the facility is producing risky food.

The FDA has yet to finalize several important rules required by FSMA. A regulation requiring food manufacturers to adopt written preventive control plans, due 18 months after the enactment of FSMA, is still unfinished. And an important regulation establishing science-based safety standards for fresh produce is also almost a year overdue. The law also requires FDA to issue specific regulations governing the safety of imported foods. In 2012, two consumer groups filed a lawsuit against the FDA and the Office of Management and Budget over the delayed rules. A federal district court judged ruled that the FDA cannot extend deadlines and must issue final regulations by June 30, 2015.

"Despite the progress that has been made, the historic reform law will not yield its full benefits until the agency finalizes those long overdue food safety regulations," said Center for Science in the Public Interest food safety director Caroline Smith DeWaal. "But it is also important that the FDA get the details right."

"The Food and Drug Administration needed more than a 19th-century bureaucracy to protect Americans from 21st-century outbreaks," said Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT).

Other participants in the briefing were Mike Taylor of FDA, Sandra Eskin of The Pew Charitable Trusts, Roland McReynolds of the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, Robert Guenther of the United Fresh Produce Association, and Bob Ehart of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture.


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