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New Food Safety Rules: Something to be Thankful For?

The FDA is finalizing new food safety rules, and advocates say that's something to be thankful for. Credit: USDA
The FDA is finalizing new food safety rules, and advocates say that's something to be thankful for. Credit: USDA
November 24, 2015

CHARLESTON, W. Va. - 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, says she's going to take a moment at her Thanksgiving table to be grateful.

"We have a safe food supply in this country, but it can be safer," she says. "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 points out the new regulations will be phased in starting with the big operations first.

She adds many of the rules will be enforceable, rather than voluntary, for the first time.

The rules also will require producers, growers and importers to ensure the food they produce or import has minimal contamination. That's a change, for both produce and for imports.

"For the very first time, the entity that imports a food product regulated by FDA is responsible for the safety of that product," says Eskin.

Many people probably assume all the important food-safety rules were put in place a long time ago. But Eskin says that isn't the case. She says every time there is a serious food-safety problem, regulators consider updating the rules. That 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. And that is quite an achievement," she says.

For consumers, Eskin notes there is still a need to follow all the basic rules for safe food handling, storage and preparation at home. But she says they can also be thankful that their food will be safer and more sanitary before they get to it.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV