By Aarian Marshall

WASHINGTON, June 25, 2014 – FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods Michael Taylor said yesterday that his agency in undergoing a “cultural shift” as part of the implementation of the 2010 Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

His remarks, in the keynote address at the International Dairy Food Association’s Regulatory Roundup yesterday in Washington, indicated FDA’s new regulations will see the agency become more proactive about maintaining food safety -- just what Congress intended in revamping the rules in 2010.

FSMA implementation includes “a strategic shift for FDA, from a traditional approach of conducting inspections, making observations and collecting evidence that prove violations [to] focusing less on enforcement and more on getting high rates of compliance with standards that by and large everyone agrees we should be operating under,” Taylor said.

Taylor also said FDA would focus on training more specialized inspectors. ”Instead of having a workforce with general investigators” -- ones that focus on drug enforcement one day and food safety inspections the next -- FDA is increasing a “specialized workforce with specialized training.”

As part of that specializing process, Taylor said FDA would also work to streamline the connections between in-field investigators and experts and administrators at national food safety offices. That way, investigators will know exactly where to go when they have specific questions about the inspection process.

Still, Taylor indicated that FDA has not yet completed its revisions of two FSMA rules set to be released this summer. The produce rule and the preventative controls rules will be re-released sometime in the next two months, after agricultural, shipping and other groups asked the agency to make preliminary changes before completing the public comment process.

Taylor later demurred when asked to provide more specifics about FDA regulations on sodium. Last week, FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg told the Associated Press that the agency was still working on sodium rules. “We believe we can make a big impact working with the industry to bring sodium levels down, because the current level of consumption really is higher than it should be for health,” Hamburg said, according to reports. She also said the agency would publicly discuss the issue “relatively soon.”

Still, Taylor did not elaborate. “We’re working on it,” he said of FDA’s timeline, indicating the “dialogue” on the issue is “not a secret thing.”

“It’s a process we go through,” Taylor said. “We’re in that process of getting that finalized.”


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