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Food-safety legislation aims to stop deadly outbreaks

Reforms are long overdue

Published: January 2013

Food recalls have been frequent in recent years, but these disturbing—and sometimes deadly—incidents could start to decline.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently released two long-awaited proposed rules to improve food safety, one aimed at produce, the other at the food-processing industry.

The proposals work toward preventing food-safety problems before you are impacted rather than reacting to a safety issue once a product is in stores or in your kitchen.

The regulations would require farmers to provide hand-washing and toilet facilities for workers, and ensure that irrigation water is clean. They would also set better standards for how sanitary measures are addressed by food-processing companies, covering bathrooms, pests, and even plant workers’ attire.

Those are some good steps, but we have concerns, too. For instance, there are no specific requirements that bagged spinach be tested for pathogens before the produce leaves the bagging plant.

These rules are part of the implementation of the 2010 FDA Food Safety Modernization Act. This monumental legislation was championed by Consumers Union and other safety organizations to bring outdated food-safety rules into the 21st century. It represents the biggest overhaul in our food-safety system since the Great Depression.

We think the Food Safety Modernization Act is critical to keeping consumers safe, and we’ve been concerned about the delays in issuing rules. Three more essential rules, including one governing imported food, remain behind government-agency doors. We hope these rules will emerge soon.

We are pleased that the Obama administration is finally moving forward on food safety, and we will continue to scrutinize the rules and urge the government to protect consumers in the strongest possible way.

Have something to say? Once these proposed rules are officially published, on January 16, you can comment on them at www.regulations.gov. The FDA will take comments from the public for 120 days.

This feature is part of a regular series by Consumers Union, the public-policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports. The nonprofit organization advocates for product safety, financial reform, safer food, health reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace.


See also:


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