Food safety law yet to grow teeth

Published in FSD Update

Implementation of the two-year-old Food Safety Modernization Act continues to be delayed.

When is a law not quite a law? Apparently when it is prickly, sensitive legislation such as the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama two years ago. The law was designed to give the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) more power to act to prevent incidents of foodborne illness, but the full impact of the law has yet to be felt.

When the bill was passed it included a provision whereby interested parties would be given two years to comment to FDA on two significant parts of the law: proposed rules governing the growing, harvesting, packing and holding of produce, and those governing food processing facilities. The comment period is due to end Aug. 15.

But the farm bill recently passed by the House of Representatives could delay implementation of the FSMA even further. One amendment to the farm bill, introduced by Rep. Dan Benishek (R-Mich.), would require FDA to conduct more cost and scientific analyses before implementing the law.

There is no guarantee that the House version of the farm bill will ever become law. First, it must be reconciled with the farm bill being considered by the U.S. Senate. Also, the White House has threatened to veto any farm bill that doesn’t restore elements of a nutrition bill, such as the food stamp program, that were stripped from an earlier version of the legislation.

But if it were to become law with Benishek’s amendment in place, it could delay implementation of the FSMA indefinitely, since no one can predict how long the additional studies required of FDA could take.

This set me to wondering about the importance and value of new food safety regulations. I’d like to ask you, dear readers, for your take on food safety. How concerned are you about food safety, particularly in light of the strength of the local and sustainable movement in your areas? How necessary do you think the FSMA is to protecting your customers from foodborne illness? What measures not in place would you like to see the federal government take to ensure the safety of our food supply?

Please email your comments to me at

food safety

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