Tuesday, December 18, 2012

New food-safety rules slowed by complexity, budget problems and maybe politics

Two years after President Obama signed the law, "The rules at the heart of the largest food-safety overhaul in more than 70 years have yet to be put in place, blocked by their sheer length, growing complexity and a White House that critics contend has delayed their implementation for political gain," Christopher Doering of the Des Moines Register reports. At the same time, the Food and Drug Administration, which would enforce the new rules, has been crunched by budget cuts.

FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg has said that unless the agency's food-safety budget is increased, the agency would continue to struggle to implement the new rules. "The longer it takes the food laws to be enacted, proponents of the law argue, the more time the country's food supply remains exposed to an unnecessarily high level of risk," Doering writes.

Some rules took effect immediately after the bill became law, including giving the FDA access to documents at a food company tied to illness or death; increased plant inspections; and giving the FDA power to order a mandatory recall or suspend plant operations. But other rules, such as requiring plans to identify and prevent contamination, tougher oversight on imported foods and stricter requirements for overseeing production and harvesting of produce, are months behind in implementation. (Read more)

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