Seemingly harmless foods that, when contaminated with e. coli bacteria, have caused mass food recalls, hospitalizations, and even deaths. About 48 million Americans get sick each year from contaminated food. 128,000 are hospitalized. 3,000 die!
Congress and the White House realized that food safety was not handled properly in the US, and so the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was signed into law in early 2010. The FDA is to transition America’s food safety from a reactionary system to a preventative one. Instead of dealing with recalls of millions of tomatoes, the FDA will require food growers and handlers to make sure none get contaminated in the first place:
Preventive Controls for Human Food: Designates safety requirements for facilities that process, package or store food for people (By the way, the FDA oversees 160,000 such facilities). This requires managers to implement preventive processes that are written into their operating protocol.
Produce Safety: Science-based standards are mandated for the production and harvesting of fruits and vegetables. The FDA is also proposing standards for growing, harvesting, packing, and holding produce on farms. Some examples of trouble areas: Irrigation and other agricultural water that may be contaminated, suitable sanitation and hygiene for farm workers, and the prevention of wild animal intrusion.
What does all this mean for us as consumers?
The FDA now has more regulatory teeth than ever before:
1. It can force companies to recall products (until now it could only recommend a company recall its products voluntarily).
2. Authority to examine internal records at farms and food-production plants.
3. The FDA is to grow its inspection workforce by another 2,000 agents and increase visits to facilities that are more susceptible to food safety issues.
By the way, beef and poultry are not covered under FSMA. That’s because they are under the auspices of the USDA, not FDA. Go figure…