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FDA proposes new food safety rules

Food processors, farms would be held more accountable for reducing foodborne illnesses

If you’re one of the unlucky individuals who has ever gotten sick from contaminated food, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is on your side.

On Friday, the FDA proposed new food safety rules that would hold food processors and farms more accountable for reducing foodborne illnesses, which sicken and kill thousands of Americans every year. The new rules are part of the Food Safety Modernization Act that became law in January 2011.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 48 million Americans get sick from tainted food each year; 128,000 of them are hospitalized as a result, and about 3,000 of them die. In the past few years, the U.S. has seen outbreaks from food illnesses tied to salmonella, E. coli and listeria; foods linked to the outbreaks include lettuce, cantaloupe, spinach, peppers and peanuts.

The FDA’s proposed rules would require makers of food to be sold in the U.S. to develop formal plans for preventing their products from causing foodborne illness and correcting any problems that arise. Inspectors also will be able to audit food makers’ programs to enforce safety standards. Another rule would require farms that produce and harvest fruits and vegetables to meet national quality standards for water applied to their crops.

The FDA is allowing 120 days for public comment; the comment period began Jan. 4.

Read Reuters and NPR for more about the FDA’s proposed safety rules.

For information on food safety, read InsideCounsel’s January feature, “How to implement safe measures for food and consumer products.”

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