The Food and Drug Administration has implemented two new rules to prevent the contamination of produce and processed food, which sickens thousands of Americans every year.
These rules include requirements for better record keeping, plans for handling outbreaks and standards that will prevent the spread of contaminants.
One rule will require food manufacturers to come up with ways to reduce the risk of contamination and have a plan ready to correct any problems.
The second rule applies to harvesting and production of fruits and vegetables in an effort to fight bacterial contamination such as E.coli. For example, farmers will have to ensure that water used in irrigation meets certain criteria.
New safety measurements might also include requiring farm workers to wash hands, installing portable toilets in the fields and ensuring foods at cooked at high enough temperatures to kill bacteria. The agency is estimating that the new rules will cost food producers thousands of dollars a year.
One in six Americans becomes ill from eating contaminated food each year, and about 130,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die. The new rules can prevent up to 1.75 million illnesses each year.
Congress passed the Food and Safety Modernization act in 2010 following a string of contaminated food incidents. These incidents included recalls of peanut butter, eggs and spinach.
Several other rules are pending, such as one that would cover importers' responsibilities for safety of food products grown or made overseas.
Florida is one of the states that is implementing new laws in 2013 for food handling, in line with the code created by the FDA. These changes include new safety and sanitation laws, along with a new inspection process.
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Source: The New York Times, "F.D.A Offers Broad New Rules to Fight Food Contamination," Jan. 7, 2013.