The rules concern plans that processors must put in place to avoid food borne illnesses that sicken at least 130,000 Americans annually. It also includes actions that growers must take at packing and farm level.
Produce processors are required to create and implement, as well as monitor, HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) plans. These plans are food safety standards effective for poultry, meat, juices and seafood.
For growers, rules outline safety standard practices for materials added to soil, packing house conditions, wild animals that access fields, worker hygiene and water.
Margaret Hamburg, an FDA commissioner, said that preventing problems is common sense and is the better option for food safety rather than reacting after harm has been done. She said that though the FDA tries to respond effectively and quickly to outbreaks, it would be better to stop the outbreaks before they actually occur. Officials of the agency were reluctant to promise any results that would arise from implementing the regulations.
The proposed rules will not be enacted immediately and are now open to public comment for a 120-day period. After this period, the Food and Drug Administration will review comments and come up with the final regulations. This process could take as long as one year, according to Michael Taylor, an FDA deputy for foods and veterinary medicine. Taylor also said that the agency estimates that at least a million illnesses will be prevented.
The full regulations are available on the agency’s website.