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Foodborne Illness Victims Call on Obama to Release FSMA Rules

Foodborne illness victims and their families joined the Make Our Food Safe Coalition Tuesday in urging the Obama administration to release key food safety rules that have now been stuck in review for seven months.

Though President Obama signed the Food Safety Modernization Act into law in Jan. 2011, drafts of key rules — which would require preventative controls for food and feed facilities, establish a foreign supplier verification program, and mandate produce safety provisions — are all several months behind schedule.

Food manufacturers, produce growers, consumer advocates and public health groups have all called on the White House Office of Management and Budget to finish its review and release the draft rules to get them back to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and back on track.

Stakeholders have not been given a specific reason for the unusually lengthy review — OMB usually has 90 days to review regulations — but some quietly question whether the administration is waiting until after the election to release any major regulations that could be characterized as “job-killing.”

On a call with reporters Tuesday, advocates said that while they were “elated” when the president signed the bill last year, they are now “outraged” over the delay in implementation.

“We find it completely unconscionable to still be sitting on [the rules],” said Nancy Donley, who founded STOP Foodborne Illness, a victims advocacy group, after losing her only son in the 1993 E.coli O157:H7 Jack in the Box outbreak.

“On behalf of those whose lives have been directly impacted by foodborne illness and others who may be unfortunately impacted in the future, as well as for all of the consumer, public health and victim organizations that worked tirelessly to get FSMA enacted, we are writing to tell you respectfully that we cannot wait any longer,” the groups wrote in a letter to the president. “Please allow the promise of this landmark law to become a reality now, by releasing the long-delayed proposed rules.”

To ramp up pressure on the administration, the coalition took out a full page ad in the New York Times and launched a video featuring Robyn and Kyle Allgood, who lost their two-year-old son Kyle in an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to spinach in 2006.

Since FSMA was signed into law, there have been ten interstate foodborne illness outbreaks and the FDA has recalled 149 food products for pathogen contamination. The coalition created a map to illustrate recent incidents state-by-state:

© Food Safety News
  • Ben Mark

    The point is none of the big food organizations and their member wants FSMA. You never read anything in the food press about FSMA. It’s like none existed. It is all about labeling and that is only 5% of FSMA at the most.
    Fact is the FDA has already all the power needed if their field staff would know about and enforce it:
    •Access to all records including sanitation and prevention records for all handlers from field to fork
    •Recall of unsafe or unsanitary food or feed for human or animals
    •Inspections at any time and warning letters.
    They are still waiting until an incident happens until they act. Growers and packer/shippers/brokers think that a certification is all they need, how wrong they are. FDA does not use certifications as it’s a third party opinion requested by a retailer and it’s only for a day or two inspections.
    The only thing missing are some new GAP rules, but there are enough GAP rules already in place to follow. What’s the problem? The problem is like with every law that’s not enforced; nothing will be done in this case for food safety.

  • husna

    Unless there is enforcement of the FSMA law, facililites that mnufacture and distribute foods will hve food safety plans only as part of their manual that they prepare for an FDA audit.
    Foodbornee illnesses will continue to be on the rise since preventative approach to food safety will take a backseat till the organization faces a recall that involves multiple serious food borne illnessess!