Court tells FDA to stick to food safety rule deadline

An appeals court is denying the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) attempt to delay upcoming food safety regulations.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals late on Monday denied the agency’s request to delay the rules while it works to consider the appeal of an earlier case that set a Nov. 30 deadline for the draft regulations.

The FDA will have extra time to propose a rule to protect against food has been intentionally adulterated, however, due to the 16-day government shutdown in October. That rule is now due out by Dec. 20. 

The Center for Food Safety, which took the FDA to court over its regulatory delays, cheered the ruling.

“Congress passed the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) to end the preventable foodborne illness epidemic in this country,” lead attorney George Kimbrell said in a statement on Tuesday. “But without its implementing rules, the statute is an empty vessel. Congress knew this was literally an issue of life or death, which is why it included mandatory deadlines in the law for its regulations. “

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The Center for Food Safety took the agency to court this summer, after it had missed deadlines for issuing regulations required by the 2010 food safety law. The district court set a Nov. 30 deadline for the FDA to propose the rules.

That case is now working its way through the courts, but the agency wanted the deadline to be pushed back pending the appeal of the case.  

The appeals court on Monday agreed to expedite the schedule of the challenge.