Make Our Food Safe
07/26/2013

"FDA Issues New Safety Rules for Imported Food"

USA TODAY | Elizabeth Weise

"Although one-sixth of America's food is imported, including 50% of the fresh fruit and 20% of the fresh vegetables, the Food and Drug Administration inspects only 2% of imports. That began to change Friday when the agency issued long-awaited rules that require imported food to meet the same safety standards as food produced in the United States.

Today "produce comes to our border without us having any enforceable standards in place for the conditions under which the produce was grown or for water quality and employee hygiene. And there's no way for us to hold the importer accountable for the safety of the product they're bringing in," said Michael Taylor,FDA's deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine.

Once the rules take effect, importers will be responsible for proving to FDA that the food they import was produced and packed under conditions that prevent food safety problems."

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"Imported food is responsible for a disproportionate number of food-borne illnesses. According to the food safety program at the Pew Charitable Trusts, eight of the 19 reported multi-state food-borne illness outbreaks linked to FDA-regulated products since 2011 were from imports. The foods included pomegranate seeds, tahini sesame paste, cucumbers, ricotta salata cheese, mangoes, raw tuna, pine nuts and papayas."

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"The requirements are often as simple as making sure water used to wash greens is not contaminated with manure and that people working in packing sheds have access to toilets and a place to wash their hands, said Erik Olson, director of food safety programs at the Pew Charitable Trusts.

"Some of that is supposed to be already required under voluntary standard. The problem is that voluntary standards are not enforceable and not everybody agrees to them," Olson said."

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