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Court Extends Deadline for FSMA Rules

The Center for Food Safety’s tug-of-war with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration over the agency’s delayed food safety rules continued last week as a judge ruled that FDA had more time to come up with a schedule for releasing the outstanding rules.

In a ruling yesterday, Judge Phyllis Hamilton of the Oakland U.S. District Court said FDA and CFS now have until June 10 to agree on a schedule for releasing the yet-unpublished food safety rules, mandated by the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011.

CFS filed suit against FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg in August of 2012 after the FDA missed a series of deadlines for publishing the regulations mandated by FSMA, which is intended to update the U.S. food safety system by transforming it from a reactive one to a preventive one.

After numerous deadlines went by without the release of the mandated rules, CFS went to court to try to force FDA to adhere to these time constraints.

In a decision this April, Judge Hamilton ruled that FDA must come up with a new schedule for issuing the proposed rules by May 20.

But when FDA sent its updated schedule to the non-profit food watchdog May 15, the group was not happy with the timeline. Since the two parties did not have enough time to discuss these problems before the new timeline was due five days later, they filed a Joint Stipulation for Extension of Time, which Judge Hamilton granted on May 17.

According to the order, CFS and the federal food regulatory agency now have until June 10 to agree upon a timeframe for releasing the rules that’s acceptable to both parties.

Since CFS filed its complaint last year, FDA has released some of the key FSMA-mandated rules it failed to publish on time, including preventive controls for human food and standards for produce safety, both released in early January.

Other rules continue to languish at the White House Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Internal and Regulatory Affairs, which must approve the rules before they are published. FDA attributes some of the delay in its release of the FSMA rules to the hang-ups that come with this part of the process.

Among those rules that have yet to be released are the foreign supplier verification program – set to overhaul import safety, an establishment of regulations to ensure the safe transport of food products and a rule ensuring neutrality of third-party audits.

© Food Safety News