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National Restaurant Association - FDA proposes new rules to food-safety act

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FDA proposes new rules to food-safety act

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration proposed two additional rules to the Food Safety Modernization Act that it says would help prevent the spread of foodborne illness.

The two new rules are part of an ongoing effort focusing on safety and prevention methods associated with domestically produced and imported foods.

Proposed Jan. 4, the first rule would require food manufacturers to develop a formal plan for preventing food products from causing foodborne illness, while the second rule proposes science- and risk-based standards for the safe production and harvesting of fruits and vegetables. They are currently available for review and comment for the next 120 days.

The National Restaurant Association said it supports the Food Safety Modernization Act.

"For the foodservice industry, there is no greater priority than food safety and our customers' well-being," said Joan McGlockton, the NRA's vice president of industry affairs and food policy. "The National Restaurant Association strongly supports the Food Safety Modernization Act and believes it should provide for safer imported and domestically produced foods."

According to the FDA, larger farms would have to be in compliance with most of the rules' produce safety requirements 26 months after the final version is published in the Federal Register. Small and very small farms would have additional time to comply, and all farms would have additional time to comply with certain requirements related to water quality.

The FSMA is aimed primarily at food producers, manufacturers and suppliers. Restaurants are not required to register their facilities, unless they provide food to interstate conveyances, such as commercial aircraft, or central kitchens, that do not prepare and serve food directly to consumers.

The FSMA was introduced in January 2011 in an attempt to establish meaningful improvements to the food-safety system and focus on the FDA's mission of prevention.

Before issuing the two new rules, the FDA said it conducted extensive outreach that included five federal public meetings and regional, state, and local meetings in 14 states across the country as well as hundreds of presentations to ensure the rules would be flexible enough to cover the diverse industries that would be affected. The agency also noted it visited farms and facilities of varying sizes.

"We know one-size-fits-all rules won't work," said Michael R. Taylor, the FDA's deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine. "We've worked to develop proposed regulations that can be both effective and practical across today's diverse food system."

Additional rules coming soon will include new responsibilities for importers to verify that their food products are as safe as domestically produced food, and accreditation standards that would strengthen the quality of third-party food-safety audits overseas.

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