July 16, 2024

Judge Orders FDA to Establish Timetable for FSMA

The Center for Food Safety (CFS) filed a lawsuit against the FDA last fall for failing to implement new food safety regulations as mandated by the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Yesterday, U.S. District Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton ordered the FDA to work with CFS to establish a new timetable to implement those regulations.

GavelCFS senior attorney George Kimbrell said, “today is a good day for food safety and for consumers. Every day without the FSMA regulations is another day where consumers are at unnecessary risk. Because of this decision our food will soon be safer from E. coli and other threats.” CFS has compiled a timeline of foodborne illness outbreaks that have occurred since FSMA was enacted on January 4, 2011.

FSMA’s critical rules, which were signed into law by President Obama in 2011, have been stalled in the White House Office of Management and Budget for years. The rules, including the produce safety rule, certification component by foreign governments for high risk foods, and rules requiring food facilities and animal feed facilities to control hazards, were supposed to be released January 2012. FSMA was the first major overhaul of the U.S. food safety laws since 1938.

The OMB released the produce rule and the good manufacturing practice rule in January 2013, one year late. Comment periods for both rules have been extended, from February 15, 2013 to May 2013, and again to 120 days later for the produce safety rule, which will delay implementation. The comment period for the pilot project for tracing food was extended from March 5 until July 3, 2013.

Judget Hamilton held that “Congress signaled its intention that the process be close-ended, rather than open-ended. Thus, the court finds that imposition of an injunction imposing deadlines for finalization of the regulations would be consistent with the underlying purposes of FSMA.” The Court ordered the FDA to meet with CFS and the Center for Environmental Health (CEH), the co-plaintiff in the lawsuit, and prepare a joint statement setting forth proposed new deadlines by May 20, 2013.

Michael Green, Executive Director of CEH, said, “we’re pleased the Court recognized the vital importance of keeping food safety for our children and families. We look forward to working with FDA towards tighter regulations to protect Americans from unsafe food products and practices.”


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