Federal court orders FDA to implement food safety rules

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 23, 2013 - U.S. District Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton in San Francisco yesterday ordered FDA to establish a new timetable to implement regulations to carry out the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) without further delay.

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In the wake of several tainted food outbreaks, Congress enacted the first major overhaul of food safety laws since 1938 to strengthen FDA authority over food production and processing. The law set deadlines for FDA to publish regulations to carry out new responsibilities such as preventive controls and hazard analysis requirements for food production facilities, safer production of fruits and vegetables, and preventing contaminated food imports. FSMA also granted FDA authority for the first time to mandate food recalls and suspend facilities. It also directed FDA to publish regulations within 18 months to implement its mandate.

 “Congress signaled its intention that the process be close-ended, rather than open-ended,” Hamilton ruled. “Thus, the court finds that imposition of an injunction imposing deadlines for finalization of the regulations would be consistent with the underlying purposes of the FSMA.”

Last fall, after the FDA missed the deadline for promulgating proposed regulations, the Washington-based Center for Food Safety (CFS) filed suit, joined by the Center for Environmental Health (CEH). Hamilton ordered FDA to meet with the plaintiffs, CFS and CEH, and prepare a joint statement setting forth proposed deadlines by May 20, 2013.

“Today is good day for food safety and for consumers,” said CFS attorney George Kimbrell. “Every day without the FSMA regulations is another day where consumers are at unnecessary risk. Because of this decision our food will soon be safer from e coli and other threats.”



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