Court of Appeals Grants FDA Food Safety Rules Extension

The FDA had until November 30, 2013 to propose new food safety rules to prevent intentionally-contaminated food from being imported into the U.S. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, however, just extended the deadline one month, to December 20. Contaminated food lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm hope this extension enables the FDA to draft comprehensive laws protecting American consumers from toxic foods.

The contested rule is part of the Food Safety Modernization Act and intended to prevent ill-intentioned attacks on American food supplies. As the food industry becomes increasingly globalized, developing countries are experiencing rapid export growth; by 2007, U.S. food imports totaled nearly $78 billion. In response to these growing numbers, federal food safety agencies are being asked to create new regulations and guidelines to increase oversight on what is being placed on our nation’s grocery shelves.

The FDA delay was due in part to the recent 16-day government shutdown, and in part because the agency would like to solicit more input from the industry before drafting its final guidelines. In response to the delay, which the FDA originally planned to push into 2015, a lawsuit was filed aiming to force the agency into proposing new rules.

The American Foodborne Illness Epidemic

Two groups filed suit against the FDA, the Center for Environmental Health and Center for Food Safety, who adamantly believe that the new rules were long overdue. The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was passed in 2011 in effort to prevent foodborne illnesses, and was the most sweeping reform in food safety in over seven decades.

Congress mandated deadlines for FSMA rule proposals, many of which are quickly approaching (rules relating to sanitary food transportation practices are due January 31, 2013, for example). The FDA is now claiming that if it is forced to propose imported food safety rules by the December 20 deadline, the results would be dissatisfactory as it would be unable to receive adequate information from members of the industry.

It would not be outlandish to call the foodborne illness problem in the U.S. an “epidemic.” According to the CDC, there were 16 investigations into multi-state outbreaks in 2012. And those were just the investigations with available reports. Most outbreaks are from food contaminated with Salmonella, Listeria or Escherichia coli (E.coli). The majority have been from foods imported into the U.S., some of the more serious being pomegranate seeds infected with Hepatitis A and Salmonella-contaminated tahini seeds, both imported from Turkey.

Every year over 48 million Americans, or one in six people, are sickened by contaminated food, and the number is not declining. The Foreign Supplier Verifications Programs proposal – the rules at issue – would require importers to verify that their suppliers use modern food safety practices. The rules would also strengthen the quality and transparency of foreign food audits, which importers rely on to manage the safety of global supply chains.

Get Involved

The FDA has and will continue to hold a series of public meetings on these and other proposed food safety rules, usually held in major cities like Chicago, San Francisco and Washington D.C. These meetings are designed to solicit public comments on the rules, inform the public on the process, and respond to any questions. Updates on when and where these meetings are held can be found on the FDA’s website.

It is also important to stay up-to-date with contaminated food recalls to keep you and your family safe from foodborne illnesses. Our team of contaminated food lawyers tries to update our blogs as frequently as possible to inform the public of multi-state or particularly harmful recalls. One of the most recent multi-state recalls affected Reser’s Fine Foods products, which are believed to be contaminated with Listeria. If you or a loved one was seriously sickened by a recalled or contaminated food, contact our firm today to be informed of your legal rights.

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