miércoles, 9 de enero de 2013
FDA releases two long-awaited Food Safety Rules
The public will have 120 days to comment the two rules mandated by the FSMA
After a year-long delay, two sweeping new food safety rules that will for the first time mandate produce safety standards and preventive controls nationwide will be released today and published to the Federal Register on Monday, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
“It’s a big deal that these two are coming out because it’s the central framework for prevention,” said Michael Taylor, FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine, in an interview with Food Safety News. “We’re eager to get to the next phase of the process.”
The two rules were mandated by the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) — a law that aims to shift the U.S. food safety system from being primarily reactive to focusing on prevention — which President Obama signed into law, with broad bipartisan support, exactly two years ago.
Since the law was enacted, the FDA has failed to keep up with the multiple deadlines set by Congress, in large part because the measures proposed by the agency were under review at the White House Office of Management and Budget’s Office of International and Regulatory Affairs for more than a year — a delay many stakeholders blamed on election politics.
It is still not clear exactly why the Obama administration’s review took so long (OMB officials have long maintained the rules are just complex and take time). According to Taylor, the OMB’s cost-benefit analysis, which will soon be posted online, found that the economic benefits from the two new rules are much greater than the expected costs to the food industry.
“There are significant benefits that well exceed the estimated costs,” said Taylor, adding that preventing outbreaks and the health care costs associated with them is actually one small part of the expected economic benefit. “There’s a great benefit in reducing the disruption to the markets, the loss of sales, and the loss of consumer confidence each time a major foodborne illness outbreak strikes.”
The agency has made full drafts of the proposed rules, which are lengthy, available online. The public will have 120 days to comment and then the rule will go through the normal rulemaking process, which could take several months.
It will likely take time for stakeholders to review the proposed rules, as the agency has not yet released an overview of what exactly would be required under the proposal, but the early reactions were unanimously positive.
One of the key elements of the proposed rule for produce focuses on water. If a farm is applying water to the edible part of the crop, it will likely have to meet a microbial standard, or explain why such a standard isn’t relevant to that specific product.