by Marion Nestle
Mar 25 2013

White House weakened food safety rules

I subscribe to Food Chemical News, at great expense but for good reason.  On Friday, I received this alert addressed to Dear Subscriber:

Food Chemical News has discovered a stunning set of documents, made available by the Department of Health and Human Services as part of a transparency initiative, that prove FDA was forced by the White House Office of Management and Budget to remove certain elements from the draft of its FDA Food Safety Modernization Act preventive controls proposal. It had long been speculated among FDA watchers that the agency intended to include requirements for product testing, maintaining supplier verification programs and tracking consumer complaints in its FSMA proposal, published in the Federal Register Jan. 16, but the eight documents we found this week, while searching for other information, confirm it.

Food Safety News picked up the story.

Food Chemical News is reporting that documents released on regulations.gov on Feb. 28 reveal cuts made by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to the implementing regulatory package for the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).Those apparent cuts include striking out requirements for food companies to test for microbial contamination of environments and finished food products, as well as rules for companies to maintain supplier verification programs and track consumer complaints.

We encourage readers to review the documents here and comment on anything of interest in our comment section.

The documents say that the White House deleted:
  • Requirements for environmental monitoring for pathogens.
  • Requirements for finished product testing for pathogens.
  • An assumption that if environmental monitoring finds pathogens on food-contact, the pathogens are also in the food.
  • Requirements for a supplier approval and verification program.
  • A requirement that companies review consumer complaints about safety.
  • FDA authority to copy company records.
The White House also:
  • Added a year to the length of time companies and farms of all sizes have to comply with the law. 
Why?  Undoubtedly election-year politics.  The election is over.  
The FDA needs to do its job.  
Let’s get these items reinserted.
The safety of Americans is at stake here.  

Comments

  • Frenchy
  • March 25, 2013
  • 1:49 pm

It was Sen. Jon Tester who really weakened FSMA. His amendment exempted over 90% of farms from compulsory safe food production under auspices of FSMA. So the Whitehouse relaxed the standards a little bit more. Maybe Obama cut another 1% of the mere 10% of FSMA left standing by Tester. Not even worth arguing over. As usual here. Just so much fog and noise to conceal the relentless industry bashing.

  • Sarah
  • March 25, 2013
  • 2:17 pm

I think the reality is our government is controlled by so much bull(expletive deleted haha) that it’s hard to get the right policies in place.

  • Michael Bulger
  • March 25, 2013
  • 2:56 pm

The Tester amendment did not exempt “over 90% of farms from compulsory safe food production”. But to further explore the (unfounded) claim of the commenter above, even if a large number of small farms were exempted, the majority of our food supply comes from large farms that will not be exempt. So, even if you had a high number of exempt small farms, the majority of the food supply would still be produced under the new rules.

  • John A
  • March 26, 2013
  • 2:35 am

Obama just promised $700 million to Palestine. Looks like the White house Tours and Food Safety will suffer in order to fund terrorist organizations. Love it, when my tax dollars are spent so recklessly.

Thanks for the kudos, Marion! Very high praise indeed, especially coming from a person of your stature in the food regulation world. I have the pleasure of working with a very good crew of journalists.

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