Obama Administration Announces New Food Safety Guidelines

Hot on the heels of a scathing report from the Washington Post last week on the state of organics and the USDA, the Obama Administration announced today a new set of food safety rules in an effort to prevent future illness outbreaks and contamination in the nation’s food system.

The rules, established by a food safety panel chosen by President Obama, outline requirements for coordination and communication between producers, distributors, and the general public. With foodborne illnesses striking nearly 76 milllion U.S. consumers each year, resulting in almost 5,000 deaths, the new regulations are much needed.

“There are few responsibilities more basic or important than the government making sure the families in America eat food that’s safe,” [Vice President] Biden said today. “Part of the reason is that many of the laws and regulations governing food safety in America have not been updated since they were written in the time of Teddy Roosevelt.”

The new set of guidelines include:

  • Better tracing systems to track the origins of a bacterial outbreak. [I’d like to see a Find The Farmer for every food producer!]
  • A new network will be established to help the many agencies that regulate food safety to communicate better.
  • Egg and poultry producers will have to follow new standards designed to reduce salmonella contamination, requiring 90% of egg-producing facilities in America to adhere to the new rules by 2010.
  • The Food Safety Inspection Service, the Agriculture Department agency that inspects meat, will increase sampling of ground beef ingredients in an effort to better find E. coli contamination.
  • The FDA will recommend ways that producers of leafy greens, melons and tomatoes can reduce disease strains, and require stricter standards in those industries within two years.
  • An improved individual alert system to enhance the foodsafety.gov website.
  • The FDA and the Agriculture Department also will create new positions to better oversee food safety. Among them, a Deputy Commissioner for Foods which will oversee the new rules.

After writer Ruth Reichl took to task a few food companies saddling consumers with food safety responsibility, it’s good to see the White House stepping in. Here’s hoping we can see changes in the food system across the board over the next four years.

~Jennifer Heigl

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