Food Poisoning: New FDA Rules Seek to Prevent Illness, Deaths

cantaloupe_web.jpgWith tens of thousands of Americans sickened by food poisoning each year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is proposing new rules to increase safety in all areas of food production and distribution.

The FDA’s proposed rules are the next step in codifying the Food Safety Modernization Act, which Congress passed in 2010 and President Barack Obama signed into law on Jan. 4, 2011. The agency says its goal is to increase safety by shifting the focus to prevention over response.

The first proposed rule would require manufacturers of processed foods to develop a plan for reducing contamination risk and maintain records for government audit. The second rule would attempt to prevent E. coli contamination of fruits and vegetables during harvest and production.

President Obama has requested $220 million in his 2013 budget to implement the law.

About 48 million Americans – or about one in six – get sick each year from food poisoning, while 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die each year from foodborne diseases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Several cases of food contamination have led to recalls and sickened thousands of people resulting in hospitalizations and deaths. In 2011, the country saw the third deadliest food poisoning outbreak in U.S. history and the worst in nearly a century linked to whole cantaloupes from Jensen Farms of Colorado. A total of 33 people died from the Listeria poisoning, and another woman who was pregnant suffered a miscarriage. By mid-2012, the CDC determined that 147 people in 28 states had been infected with one of the five outbreak-associated sub-types of Listeria.

Investigators later attributed the outbreak in part to two brothers who had inherited the farm, changed their packing procedures and substituted in some new equipment and removed an antimicrobial wash.

F.D.A. Offers Broad New Rules to Fight Food Contamination, The New York Times.

The New FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), Food and Drug Administration.

Multistate Outbreak of Listeriosis Linked to Whole Cantaloupes from Jensen Farms, Colorado, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Food Poisoning, Breakstone, White & Gluck.
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