FDA seeks comments on food safety plan

Apr 1, 2008 (CIDRAP News) – The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today announced it is seeking public and stakeholder comments on the food safety plan that it proposed in November to address concerns about foodborne illness and problems with imported products.

The call for comments was published today in the Federal Register, and a link to submit comments is available on the agency's Web site. Electronic or written comments will be accepted through July 30, according to the Federal Register notice.

During a conference call today with stakeholders to announce the call for comments, David Acheson, MD, the FDA's assistant commissioner for food safety, said, "The success of the plan is all built upon partnerships. This is an opportunity for people to let their voices be heard in a transparent way."

Acheson said that since releasing the plan in November, federal officials have had several opportunities to attend food industry meetings and hear questions and concerns about the new food safety plan. "This has led to a lot of good discussions, and this has led to a more formal process," he said of the invitation for comments.

The Bush administration released the food protection plan along with an overarching import safety plan on Nov 6. Officials proposed to revamp the nation's food safety policies after a spate of food safety incidents, ranging from tainted domestic produce to chemical contamination of imported pet food ingredients.

The plan would give the FDA authority to order recalls of unsafe food products and give the agency more access to company records during emergencies. In some instances, companies have been slow or refused to voluntarily recall their food products when contamination or safety issues surfaced.

The plan includes 14 broad recommendations and 50 action steps. Some are short-term goals, while others are targeted to long-term objectives. For example, in the short term, the FDA will provide safety and security certification for foreign producers, based on the product's risk level. The plan also gives federal officials the authority to seize the assets of companies that violate food safety laws and increase civil penalties for those that violate the Consumer Product Safety Act.

Longer-term goals include expanding laboratory capacity to speed the identification of contaminants and using new technology, such as radiofrequency tracking, to expedite recalls.

In information accompanying the FDA's request for feedback, the agency highlighted several items it said it was most eager to hear about. For example, the agency is asking about the criteria it should use to define "high-risk" and about the benefits and limitations of accrediting third parties to perform food inspections.

In August the FDA will host a 50-state meeting to get state and local officials more involved in discussing components of the food safety plan, Acheson said.

See also:

Link to submit food safety plan comments

Nov 6, 2007, CIDRAP News story "US food safety plan calls for FDA recall power"

Nov 7, 2007, CIDRAP News story "FDA food safety plan taps others for inspection help"

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