Food Safety Modernization Act gets President Obama's signature

Consumer Reports News: January 04, 2011 04:18 PM

President Obama will today sign the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) into law. The FSMA, which won bipartisan support from Congress, shifts the FDA's regulatory focus from responding to food contamination outbreaks to preventing them.

Consumers Union has long advocated for overhauling the Depression-era laws that currently govern food safety. FSMA will require more frequent inspections of food facilities and, for the first time, give the FDA the authority to order recalls of tainted food. Jean Halloran, the director of food policy initiatives at Consumers Union, said, "It's a great day for consumers. When common foods like spinach and peanut products have to be pulled from stores because people are dying, clearly, there's a problem. This legislation will go a long way toward making our food safer."

In a written statement about the new legislation, FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. noted that "FDA will now have new prevention-focused tools, as well as a clear regulatory framework, to help make substantial improvements in our approach to food safety."

With 1 out of 6 Americans suffering foodborne illness every year, including more than 100,000 being hospitalized, and thousands dying, the FSMA should provide positive changes for public health.  

Here are some key facts about FSMA from the FDA: 

Inspection and Compliance: FDA must now inspect high risk facilities at least once every five years—it currently averages inspections once every decade. 

Imported Food Safety: An estimated 15 percent of the U.S. food supply is imported, including 60 percent of fresh fruits and vegetables and 80 percent of seafood. Importers must verify their suppliers' food is safe, and the FDA can refuse food from foreign suppliers who do not allow an FDA inspection.

Recall Authority: For the first time, FDA will have mandatory recall authority for all food products; up until now, all recalls have been voluntary.

--Desiree Ferenczi

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