FDA seeks public support for new food safety measures

Photo courtesy of Jannes Pockele/Wikimedia Commons

Americans concerned about the safety of their food may see their fears addressed as the FDA seeks public approval for its new food safety law. The FDA will be soliciting public reaction for its Food Safety Modernization Act over the next four months.

Concern over food safety and continuous outbreaks of foodborne illness have long haunted US consumers. Outrage over “pink slime” and factory-farming have complemented listeria outbreaks in cantaloupe and apples, illustrating how food safety gas become a concern for Americans of all food preferences. According to the FDA, the risk of contracting foodborne illness in the US is “substantial” which one sixth of the nation suffering each year.

This new law, which focuses on accountability of purveyors and prevention of foodborne illness, marks the most profound legislation of its kind in decades. Its first proposed rule mandates that the producers of food sold in the US have a formal plan to avoid and rectify foodborne illness caused by their products. Secondly, the law sets more concrete standards for farm practices which encompass the production of both plant and animal products.

Photo courtesy of USDA/Wikimedia Commons

Additionally, the law gives the FDA other powers of more frequent surprise inspections, shutting down facilities and employing stricter standards for imported foods.

The implementation of such legislation has, and continues to be, a long process. The FDA delivered the premise for legislation to the public two years after President Obama signed off on the creation of new legislation. After reviewing these broad tenets for four months, the FDA will come up with more specific legislation, ultimately ending in measures which will take two years to implement completely.

Many have been on board with this crackdown on national food standards. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said it is a “sensible law” which will prevent foodborne illness and has garnered support from the “industry, consumer groups, and the bipartisan leadership in Congress”. In a land of bitter partisanship, food safety is something that politicians can agree on.

Even food and beverage purveyors seem to approve of the legislation. Pamela Bailey, president of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, said the law “can serve as a role model for what can be achieved when the private and public sectors work together to achieve a common goal.”

Photo courtesy of Jeffrey G. Katz/Wikimedia Commons

As with any new measures, however, money is at the center of resistance. The law could cost large farms $30,000 a year with the industry’s bill totaling $475 million annually.

Farms aren’t the only ones facing a financial crunch, with the historically underfunded FDA needing the capital to carry out the new measures. “Resources remain an ongoing concern,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg.

Although the road is long, new food safety legislation provides a hopeful glimmer for both the fearful consumer and the fearful citizen. Public and industry support for greater regulation and preventative measures has been heard almost unanimously. At the same time, this bill is one of few which garners bipartisan support. Amongst the enduring political rancor, this model of public, industry, and political dialogue may serve as a model and a point of optimism for the new year ahead.