Defense lawyers from Stoel Rives are out with a fine presentation for the food industry on what the Food Safety Modernization Act is all about. One part caught my eye.

It has to do with the immediate work that lies ahead for the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA).


FDA will have to run 10 rulemaking processes; issue at least 10 guidance documents so industry will know what it is suppose to do; put out 13 reports; and engage in numerous other activities that will burn up time and money. 

As everyone who has followed the agency knows, FDA rule making can become processes measured only by the decades they take.  As a unit of the mammoth and lumbering U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, FDA is as likely to fall into a tar pit as it is to gracefully tippy toe over the obstacles it encounters.

But with the implementation of the biggest reform to hit the food side of the agency since 1938, FDA is putting on its can-do face.

Michael Taylor, no callow fellow, was using his “action” clichés at a Washington D.C. conference last week.  The FDA deputy commissioner for foods said the agency was going to “hit the ground running” to implement the new law.

Taylor spoke of FDA’s “strong team of experts with experience in preventative controls.”  Are those the same people that FDA needs to hire, train, deploy and support the skilled personnel it is going to need to make the new law reality?

We can only hope. With the exception of the U.S. military, which has developed an amazing ability to change and adapt in the middle of a mission, the federal government is a pretty inflexible organization.

FDA’s bungled implementation of the new egg rule is not all that unusual for the federal government. There is no need to go into the many examples of why we have low expectations for the feds when it comes to change, 21st Century style.

It is reason enough for Food Safety News to pay as much attention to this implementation phase of the Food Safety Modernization Act as we did for its long journey through the 111th Congress.

Taylor is correct in that history will not be made until the new law is part of the day-to-day operation of the food safety system.