New FDA Rules To Prevent Foodborne Illness from Produce

picture of produceFood scares on the news get our attention. Whatever it is, chicken, eggs, spinach, or most recently cucumbers, we check out the story and pass the news along to friends.

In a September 2015 outbreak of cucumber-related Salmonella, four Americans died and 157 were sickened, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Along the way, consumers’ frustration and disgust have deepened. As food scares simply refuse to go away, community moves to grow and eat local produce have spread.

What FDA Says Will Happen Now

According to MedPageToday, the new rules will cover American produce, and the new Foreign Supplier Verification rule will require food importers to verify suppliers are producing food that meets U.S. safety standards. The FDA also issued guidelines governing the accreditation of third-party auditors to conduct food safety audits on foreign food facilities.

Set up as prevention measures, the rules cover water quality, employee health and hygiene, wild and domesticated animals, compost and manure, equipment, tools, and buildings.

Some 48 million Americans, out of a population of 322 million, get sick each year from foodborne diseases. Of these, 128,000 are hospitalized annually and 3,000 die, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In 2013, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated imported food accounted for 19 percent of the U.S. food supply, including 52 percent of fresh fruits and 22 percent of fresh vegetables.

The new FDA food safety rules depend on full funding of President Barack Obama’s 2016 budget requests.

Side Note on Salmonella in Chicken

Not too long ago I found myself standing in a long line clutching my frozen chicken that needed to be returned. The chicken had just been posted on a warning list for Salmonella. Later, a “Frontline” television documentary focused on the supplier, Foster Farms, and the ongoing pattern of Salmonella that has been traced to them. “Frontline” also pointed out the food industry is monitoring by 13 different agencies which creates a separate wave of confusion.

Chicken is governed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), which allows some levels of Salmonella in meat and poultry, assuming it will be cooked and the bugs will be killed. This ignores the possibility that Salmonella might infect people in the kitchen as it is being handled.

Let’s Keep Tracking the Progress

I think most of us will stay with all of the parts of this story, watching for the results of the new FDA regulations, and any other possible improvements in reducing confusion in the number of agencies that monitor our food.

As healthy eating grows, let’s demand that our supply of food keeps pace in matters of safety.

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