The government is finally moving forward with the biggest overhaul of food safety rules since the Great Depression—it’s about time! With major recalls in the past few years of melon and peanut butter, the safety of the U.S. food supply has been under major scrutiny. Food safety advocates are thrilled, but will these government plans really keep our food supply safe?
The Food Safety Modernization Act was signed into law by President Obama and hailed to be the first major overhaul in the safety of our food system in 70 years. The entire system shifts the focus to prevention rather than reaction when a problem occurs. There are 2 new rules proposed by the FDA that would govern about 80% of the U.S. food supply, excluding meat and poultry.
The first rule is aimed at fruit and vegetable safety and food processing. It requires the following:
- Farmers ensure irrigation water touching fruit and veggies isn’t contaminated with pathogenic micro-organisms.
- Water used to wash fruit and veggies in the packing sheds must be safe to drink.
- Farm employees must be provided with hand-washing stations and other basic sanitation facilities.
- Growers must put in place a plan to prevent the spread of microorganisms associated with animals that may enter the growing fields.
- Manure and other types of fertilizers must either be composted properly or treated to kill dangerous microorganisms.
- Packing sheds can’t have standing water and packing equipment must be easy to clean.
The second rule also applies to fruit and veggies and is similar to what’s currently used to keep meat and seafood safe. It’s also similar to the HACCP (hazard analysis critical control point) system implemented in the commercial food service world. The food-processing facilities would need to implement a control system based on any potential hazards. The basic steps in this system are:
- Determine any points where potential hazards can happen.
- Find critical points within the system that can be controlled in order to reduce or eliminate the hazard.
- Monitor that the controls are being met.
- Correct for any issues that arise.
- Show state and federal agricultural officers that the program implemented works through testing.
These two rules will be published in the Federal Register and the public will have 120 days to comment. An additional three rules are pending and should be issued in the near future. One rule that was not addressed this time was imported food. Over 15% of our food supply is imported with a 10% annual growth. It is expected to be addressed in upcoming months.
Bottom Line: The government is taking big strides towards making our food supply safer. These laws will take several years to implement, hopefully making our food supply safe in years to come. However, in the short term we still may see some additional outbreaks so be sure to handle food with care.
TELL US: What are your thoughts on the new food safety rules?