Monday, January 07, 2013

Farmers would be first line of defense in food safety under proposed FDA rules

The federal government proposed two new food safety rules Friday that would aim to prevent food contamination that has made tens of thousands sick recently. The rules are part of sweeping changes to laws that have undergone few changes in the last 70 years. It's also "a long-awaited step toward codifying the food safety law that Congress passed two years ago," Stephanie Strom of The New York Times reports. (NYT photo by Nicole Bengiveno: Checking lettuce temperature on Arizona farm)

The rules are an attempt to prevent food-borne illnesses before they begin by requiring farmers to play a role in detecting contamination before food is sent to stores or restaurants. Specific changes would require better recordkeeping, contingency plans for dealing with disease outbreaks, and prevention measures to stop the spread of contaminants. Farmers would have some leeway in implementing rules, but they would have to make sure irrigation water met certain standards. Food processors would have to find ways to keep contaminated fresh food from coming into contact with cooked food.  Farm workers might also be required to wash their hands, portable toilets might be installed in fields, and processors might also have to make sure food is cooked enough to kill bacteria.

It's unclear whether consumers will have to pay some of the expense to implement the measures, but the Food and Drug Administration estimates the rules could cost farmers and food producers tens of thousands of dollars a year. But officials said the new rules were necessary to better protect human health. The FDA is responsible for the safety of about 80 percent of the food that Americans eat. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is responsible for the rest, which includes meat, poultry and eggs. (Read more)

No comments: