1. Health
Vincent Iannelli, M.D.

Fully Implement the Food Safety Modernization Act

By September 16, 2012

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The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) helped to transform the FDA and our overall food safety system into one in which food regulators worked to prevent contamination of our food, instead of simply trying to react every time there was an outbreak. It was passed by Congress in 2010 and signed into law by President Obama in January 2011.

Unfortunately, more than a year after the FSMA was signed into law, our children are still needlessly at risk, because key policies of the FSMA have still not been fully implemented, including:

  • prevention of contamination of fruits and vegetables
  • ensuring the safety of imported foods
  • directing food processors to create plans to identify and mitigate food hazards

What's the holdup? Well, the FDA states that they have "made significant progress in developing proposed rules to implement the sweeping food safety reform law, publishing mandated reports, and taking important steps toward increasing overall food safety capacity in the United States."

But, the American Academy of Pediatrics claims that the FSMA needs approval from the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to get these policies implemented. The deadline for getting the above rules approved was back in April, about five months ago, and experts have been pushing for their approval for at least that long. One organization even filed a federal lawsuit targeting the FDA and OMB to get the policies enacted.

Understandably, these are complicated rules that need to be approved, but as important an issues as this is, it should get done as soon as possible, as long as it is also done correctly. At the very least, let us know what the holdup is. Not enough staffing at the OMB? Problems with the rules?

Add your voice and call on President Obama to get the OMB to release the rules that will get us closer to having a more fully implemented FSMA and safer food for our kids. As President Obama once said, "There are certain things that only a government can do. And one of those things is ensuring that the foods we eat, and the medicines we take, are safe and don't cause us harm."

And although the FSMA had bipartisan support when it passed, you have to wonder how committed politicians are to getting this law fully implemented and funded. In an interview with Mark Senak of the Eye on FDA blog, Congressman Jack Kingston (R-GA), chair of the Agriculture subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee with jurisdiction over FDA, stated that "according to the CDC, our food safety rate is very high... and while there are still a lot of people getting sick, there is a lot of food-borne illnesses, it is still an incredibly high safety rate. And so we are saying do you really need 18,000 new FDA employees? Do you really need to spend almost 1 1/2 billion dollars?"

And of course, being an election year, you have to wonder if politics is getting in the way of the FSMA getting fully implemented.

Hopefully not, as the CDC states that "foodborne illness (sometimes called "foodborne disease," "foodborne infection," or "food poisoning) is a common, costly--yet preventable--public health problem," and that " each year roughly 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) gets sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases."

So yes, we do need to implement the FSMA, including getting the FDA more employees and funds, if that is what is needed, to make our food safer.

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