Monday, December 23, 2013

FDA to re-write food safety rules to appease farmers, who say the new laws are too costly

Nearly a year after the federal government proposed new food safety rules that would put more responsibility on farmers to prevent food-borne illnesses before they begin, the Food and Drug Administration said it will revise the rules "after farmers complained the rules could hurt business," costing large farms as much as $30,000 a year, Mary Clare Jalonick reports for The Associated Press. "Many of the concerns the FDA heard from farmers were about new regulations for testing irrigation water."

"The rules proposed in January would require farmers to take new precautions against contamination, making sure workers’ hands are washed, irrigation water is clean and that animals stay out of fields, among other precautions," Jalonick writes. "Food manufacturers would also have to submit food safety plans to the government to show they are keeping their operations clean." Farmers complained that they would need to purchase new equipment, and would be responsible for more paperwork and record keeping.

FDA Commisssioner Michael Taylor said in a blog post on the agency's website: "Because of the input we received from farmers and the concerns they expressed about the impact of these rules on their lives and livelihood, we realized that significant changes must be made, while ensuring that the proposed rules remain consistent with our food safety goals."

Supporters of the proposed changes "have said the new laws are needed after several high-profile, foodborne illness outbreaks in peanuts, spinach, eggs, cantaloupe and other foods," Jalonick writes. "While many farmers and food manufacturers already follow good food safety practices, the law would aim to ensure that all of them do. There are an estimated 3,000 deaths a year from foodborne illness." (Read more)

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