Last week, the Food & Drug Administration began implementation of the next phase of the Food Safety Modernization Act. This phase helps ensure imported food meets the same safety standards as food produced in the US. Deputy Commissioner for Food and Veterinary Medicine for the Food & Drug Administration Michael Taylor:
“Well, FDA is announcing another big step in implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act that congress enacted in 2011, and this is really an overhaul in our food safety system to be much more effective in preventing food safety problems from happening in the first place, and for ensuring that all the food in the US market meets new, modern standards for producing food, whether that food is produced in the United States or overseas.”
Taylor outlines some of the products the US routinely imports:
“We import, in total, about 15% of our food supply, but this includes as much as 50% of our fruit, fresh fruit, 20% of our fresh vegetables, and 80% of our seafood comes from overseas.”
Taylor goes on to say that thus far, there’s been little pushback on the new rules:
“Well, we’re fortunate that there’s broad support from the food industry, from the consumer community, for what we’re doing here. There was a broad coalition that resulted in congress enacting the Food Safety Modernization Act, and we’ve had great support from the food industry, from consumer groups for these rules that we’re putting out and for the overall implementation effort.”
This particular phase of the rule, explains Taylor, just ensures a level playing field for both domestic and foreign producers:
“We work closely with our state colleagues, North Carolina for example, we work with Ag Commissioner Troxler there, and his colleagues around the country. we can oversee domestic facilities and growers directly in this country, we can’t do that as well with the growers and processors overseas. So, the rules we’re proposing to compliment, the oversight we can provide directly to US growers and processors and enable us to verify that the foreign growers are operating under the same standards, and we have a level playing field of protection.”
This particular phase of the Food Safety Modernization Act has been welcomed by growers that produce and sell fresh fruits and vegetables. Over the past few years several food borne illness outbreaks have been attributed to foreign produce, but the domestic market was hit hard before the source was found to be foreign.
These proposed rules are currently open for comment until September 16th.
Michael Taylor, Deputy Commissioner for Food and Veterinary Medicine for the Food & Drug Administration.