The Food Safety Modernization Act was signed into law by President Obama on January 2011, yet nearly two years following its enactment, its provisions remain to be implemented. When the bill was passed, the FDA acknowledged that establishing a process of enhanced food safety would take some time and, therefore, set forth flexible implementation guidelines for certain regulations. But the nearly two year delay is a cause for concern among many food safety advocates.
Some of the provisions have been blocked due to their length, complexities, and potential political posturing. Moreover, according to an article in the Detroit Free Press, the FDA – the agency charged with implementing the law’s provisions – has fallen victim to spending cuts in Washington. The article states that FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg has said that unless the FDA’s food safety budget is increased from its current level of $1.2 billion it will continue to struggle to implement the expansive new regulations.
Delays in the law’s implementation are a cause for major concern for many food safety advocates. The goal of the legislation was to hold everyone in today’s global food chain responsible and accountable for controlling hazards that can cause foodborne illnesses so that they can be prevented and reduced. The longer the food safety laws remain unimplemented, the more vulnerable the nation’s food supply remains. Proponents of the law cite to the recent salmonella outbreak at Sunland Inc.’s peanut butter processing plant as an example of a foodborne illness outbreak that the law is designed to protect against since the Sunland processing plant had a history of prior safety violations.
Among other things, the Food Safety Modernization Act requires that food manufacturing facilities:
- Develop and implement written safety plans evaluating hazards that could affect the safety of food;
- Identify, implement and monitor preventive controls; and
- Maintain records of preventive controls monitoring.
The bill also requires that designated imported foods be certified by a third party with expertise in food safety and under the oversight of the FDA. The Secretary of Health and Human Services must identify and determine the most significant foodborne contaminants and develop science-based guidance to assist food producers.
Other food safety programs, including a federal program that tests random produce samples for salmonella and other pathogens, have also been eliminated. The lack of adequate food safety laws has the potential to harm the public by allowing contaminated food to infiltrate the supply chain. For example, several recent outbreaks of foodborne illnesses have been the result of contaminated produce, including the salmonella outbreak earlier this year caused by tainted cantaloupe and a listeria outbreak last year also caused by tainted cantaloupe.
The Chicago product liability attorneys at Ankin Law Offices, LLC are committed to product safety and consumer rights. Contact one of our Chicago food safety attorneys at (312) 600-0000 for more information on the cantaloupe salmonella outbreak and food safety.