FDA releases final rules for produce

FDA releases final rules for produce
© Thinkstock

The Obama administration finalized sweeping new rules Friday for how produce should be grown, harvested, packed, held and imported in attempt to protect people from foodborne illnesses.

ADVERTISEMENT

The rules from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are required by the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and establish enforceable safety standards for produce farms and make importers accountable for verifying that imported food meets U.S. safety standards.

Using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the agency estimates 48 million people, or one in six Americans, get sick each year from foodborne diseases; of those people approximately 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die each year.

Some of the most high-profile outbreaks have been caused by contaminated spinach and peanut products.

“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,” Michael Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, said in a news release. “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.”

The Produce Safety rules will force farmers to train their employees, inspect the quality of their water sources, keep records of water testing, sanitize their tools and equipment and keep waste from grazing animals away from food sources.

The rules do not apply to farms that have sold less than $25,000 in produce in the last three years.

The other two rules finalized Friday include the Foreign Supplier Verification Programs rule and the Accredited Third-Party Certification rule. The first will force importers to verify that foreign suppliers are meeting U.S. safety standards by auditing facilities, sampling and testing food, or reviewing relevant food safety records. The latter rule establishes a program for the accreditation of third-party auditors to conduct food safety audits and to certify that foreign food facilities and food products by those facilitites meet FDA food safety requirements. 

The FDA said it has finalized five of the seven food safety rules Congressionally mandated by the FSMA. Earlier this year, the agency finalized rules for food processing and storage facilities.