COLUMBUS – The Food and Drug Administration is putting new food-safety rules in place – and advocates of the change say that’s something to be thankful for.
The FDA is finalizing rules for three basic categories of groceries: produce, imports and processed foods. Sandra Eskin, director of the Safe Food Project for The Pew Charitable Trusts, said it’s an important step.
“We have a safe food supply in this country, but it can be safer,” she said, “and it’s made safer by rules like these that are going to make the people who grow and import the food responsible for the safety of it.”
Some farm and food-industry lobbying groups have chafed under federal rules in the past. Eskin said the new regulations will be phased in starting with the big operations first.
Eskin said many of the rules will be enforceable – rather than voluntary – for the first time. These rules will require producers, growers and importers to ensure that the food they produce or import has minimal contamination, she said. That’s a change for both produce and imports.
“For the very first time,” Eskin said, “the entity that imports a food product regulated by FDA is responsible for the safety of that product.”
Many people probably assume important food-safety rules were put in place long ago, but Eskin said that isn’t the case. Every time there is a serious food-safety problem, she said, regulators consider updating the rules – as was the case a few years ago when a lot of people became ill after eating fast-food hamburgers.
“Looking at ground beef, looking at this particular horrible strain of E. coli, we have cut infections by 50 percent,” she said. “That is quite an achievement.”
Consumers still need to follow all the basic rules for safe food handling, storage and preparation at home, Eskin said, but added that they also can be thankful that their food will be safer and more sanitary before they get to it.
Safe food-handling tips are online at fsis.usda.gov. Information on new rules is at fda.gov.