What’s holding up food safety regulations?

07/11/2012 03:10:00 PM
Tom Karst

Another page of the calendar, another deadline missed for the Food Safety Modernization Act implementation.

The Food and Drug Administration continues to miss deadlines set by Congress for the new food safety law.

In early July, 18 months after the massive food safety reform bill became law, the FDA was supposed to have implemented the preventive control requirement and established a voluntary qualified importer program.

Earlier this year, the FDA missed a Jan. 4 deadline to issue the produce safety regulation, preventive controls for food and feed, and a rule for foreign supplier verification.

While the FDA submitted the rules in December, the regulations are apparently still under review at the White House Office of Management and Budget. Some observers speculate the proposed rules are slowed by election-year politics or perhaps uncertainty on the cost-and-benefit analysis of the rules.

“Whoever is holding it up, it is not FDA and it is certainly not the industry,” said David Gombas, senior vice president of food safety and technology for Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association,

Gombas said there are several more regulations still to be addressed, including lab accreditation and third-party accreditation. Both of those regulations have a deadline set by Congress of early 2013.

“The anticipation was that FDA would have an opportunity to see that the reaction was to the first four (deadlines) before these were published but (the FDA) continues to work on the other rules required by the Food Safety Modernization Act,” he said. “At this point they will bunch up in the qeuue and we’re not sure which one will appear first.”

Gombas said funding for FDA also remains a question, with the agency’s oversight responsibilities outpacing its budget.

“They continue to look at user fees, but I don’t see user fees as bridging that gap,” Gombas said.



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