New rules give FDA more power to block unsafe food

May 5, 2011 (CIDRAP News) – The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says two new regulations to take effect in July will give the agency more power to detain unsafe food and identify potentially hazardous imported foods.

The regulations are the first to be issued by the FDA under new authorities it gained with passage of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act in January, the agency said in an announcement yesterday.

The first rule will allow the FDA to "administratively detain food the agency believes has been produced under insanitary or unsafe conditions," the statement said. Previously the FDA could detain food only when it "had credible evidence that a food product presented was contaminated or mislabeled in a way that presented a threat of serious adverse health consequences or death to humans or animals."

The new rule empowers the FDA to hold food products for up to 30 days, giving time to determine if it should seize the products or seek a court order blocking their distribution.

Under the old rules the FDA has often worked with states to detain food products under state authority until federal enforcement action could be launched in a federal court, the agency said.

"This authority strengthens significantly the FDA's ability to keep potentially harmful food from reaching U.S. consumers," FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods Mike Taylor said in the news release. "It is a prime example of how the new food safety law allows FDA to build prevention into our food safety system."

The second rule requires anyone importing food or animal feed into the United States to tell the FDA if any country has blocked importation of the same product. This requirement will give the agency more information about imported foods, improving its ability to target foods that may be hazardous, officials said.

The new reporting requirement will be administered through the FDA's existing system requiring prior notice of incoming shipments of imported food, established under the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002.

"The new information on imports can help the FDA make better-informed decisions in managing the potential risks of imported food entering the United States," Taylor said. He added that the FDA will add a series of further new rules for both domestic and imported foods later this year and next year.

Both new regulations are scheduled to take effect Jul 3, but the FDA will accept comments on them until Aug 3, according to notices published today in the Federal Register.

See also:

May 5 FDA press release, with links to relevant Federal Register notices
http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm253983.htm

May 5 Federal Register notice on new administration detention rule

May 5 Federal Register notice on food import reporting rule

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