The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced on Friday a new proposal for two sweeping rules aimed at preventing the contamination of produce and processed foods. Those two groups of foods have been responsible, said the FDA, for sickening thousands in the United States every year over the past decade.
The new rules proposed by the FDA represent a big shift in how the regulatory agency will police food. The present process involved no action until after contamination had taken place. The new proposal has long been anticipated and will attempt to codify the law for food safety that Congress approved more than two years ago.
The new changes include requiring that better records be maintained, new measures for preventing the spread of contaminants and contingency plans to handle any outbreaks.
Producers of food would have some amount of latitude in making a determination on executing the new rules; farmers would have to ensure their water used for irrigation met health standards, while processors would be required to find new methods of keeping fresh food that might contain some type of bacteria from touching any food that had been previously cooked.
Other measures of safety that might be added including requiring all farm workers to thoroughly wash their hands prior to working, portable toilets installed in all farms and making sure that all foods are cooked at the required temperature to ensure that any bacteria is killed.
It is unclear whether any or all of the additional costs would be eventually passed on to the consumer, but it was estimated by the FDA that the new proposals would cost thousands of dollars each year.