The US Food and Drug Administration finalized three more rules of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Friday.
The newest rules establish enforceable safety standards for produce farms and make importers accountable for verifying that imported food meets US safety standards. FDA also issued a rule establishing a program for the accreditation of third-party certification bodies, also known as auditors, to conduct food safety audits of foreign food facilities. These final rules will help produce farmers and food importers take steps to prevent problems before they occur, FDA says.
According to CDC, an estimated 48 million people (one in six Americans) get sick each year from foodborne diseases. Of these illnesses, approximately 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die each year. Over the past few years, high-profile outbreaks related to various foods, from spinach and cucumbers to peanut products and ice cream, have underscored the need to make continuous improvements in food safety.
The new rules released today—referred to as the Produce Safety rule, the Foreign Supplier Verification Programs rule and the Accredited Third-Party Certification rule—are key elements of the comprehensive food safety overhaul envisioned in the 2011 bipartisan FSMA. Signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2011, FSMA is a sweeping reform of the nation’s food safety laws. These changes are built upon a foundation of seven new major rules that aim to ensure the US food supply is safe by shifting focus from responding to contamination to preventing it. The first two rules were finalized and submitted by FDA to the Federal Register in September. The new rules formalize industry accountability and best practices for food importers and the produce community.
“The recent multistate outbreak of Salmonella in imported cucumbers that has killed four Americans, hospitalized 157 and sickened hundreds more is exactly the kind of outbreak these rules can help prevent,” says Michael R. Taylor, FDA deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine. “The FDA is working with partners across the government and industry to prevent foodborne outbreaks. The rules will help better protect consumers from foodborne illness and strengthen their confidence that modern preventive practices are in place, no matter where in the world the food is produced.”
For the latest announcements and more information on FSMA, visit the FDA website here.