The Food and Drug Administration released two of the five major regulations tied to the Food Safety Modernization Act for public comment on Friday, the second anniversary of the bill's passage. The newly released rules, arguably the most important two of the five, span a whopping 1,236 pages and regulate food safety protocols for produce and manufactured foods, respectively.
In a conference call with reporters on Friday, Dr. Margaret Hamburg, the commissioner of the FDA, called the release of the regulations "a major step in implementing the landmark, bipartisan Food Safety Modernization Act."
"They represent significant advances toward the administration's goal of strengthening our food safety system to better protect public health," she said.
An estimate from the Congressional Budget of the Office pegged the cost at $645 million a year by 2015, but budget constraints in Washington have kept the FDA from getting any significant increase in funding for food safety. So Hamburg and Taylor's caginess may be a sign that they expect implementation to "cost the government" whatever Congress is willing to pay -- which may be very little. It is unlikely that the FDA can inspect food facilities or that farms can comply with the new regulations without additional funding.
That didn't dull the excitement of food safety advocates who've been begging the FDA to release the proposed regulations for many months, however. "President Obama today has taken an important step forward in the fight to save lives, prevent foodborne illnesses and lower health-care costs," food safety expert Erik Olson of Pew Trusts said in a statement. "We applaud him and the Food and Drug Administration for taking major action to help fulfill his promise by releasing two important sets of rules to implement the law."