The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday finalized another rule in the Food Safety Modernization Act suite, tackling food safety standards for product farms and imported food.
FDA also issued a rule establishing a program for the accreditation of third-party certification bodies, also known as auditors, to conduct food safety audits of foreign food facilities.
FDA said the rules will help produce farmers and food importers take steps to prevent problems before they occur. They build on the preventive controls rules the FDA finalized in September 2015, which mandate modern preventive practices in food processing and storage facilities.
"These rules work together to systematically strengthen the food safety system and better protect public health," FDA said. According to the agency, an estimated 48 million people get sick each year from foodborne diseases, according to recent data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Approximately 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die each year.
“The recent multistate outbreak of Salmonella in imported cucumbers that has killed four Americans, hospitalized 157 and sickened hundreds more, is exactly the kind of outbreak these rules can help prevent,” said Michael R. Taylor, FDA deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine. “The FDA is working with partners across the government and industry to prevent foodborne outbreaks. The rules will help better protect consumers from foodborne illness and strengthen their confidence that modern preventive practices are in place, no matter where in the world the food is produced.”
The Produce Safety rule establishes science-based standards for growing, harvesting, packing, and holding produce that are designed to work effectively for food safety across the wide diversity of produce farms.
The FSVP rule requires food importers to verify that foreign suppliers are producing food in a manner that meets U.S. safety standards. In 2013, USDA estimated that imported food accounted for about 19% of the U.S. food supply, including about 52% of the fresh fruits and 22% of the fresh vegetables consumed by Americans.
The Accredited Third-Party Certification rule establishes a program for the accreditation of third-party certification bodies to conduct food safety audits and to certify that foreign food facilities and food produced by such facilities meet applicable FDA food safety requirements.
The three new rules bring the total of approved rules to five. Two more rules – regarding Sanitary Transportation and Intentional Adulteration – are scheduled for release in spring 2016. They will make up the seven-part core of the FSMA.