PHILADELPHIA – The Pew Charitable Trusts highlighted four food safety policy developments the organization will be monitoring in 2018.
Pew released its analysis citing the importance of the ongoing implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in the wake of a foodborne illness investigation of an E. coli outbreak linked to leafy greens that killed one person and sickened at least 25 individuals.
“Food safety — overseen by FDA and the US Department of Agriculture — should remain a priority for federal policymakers this year,” wrote Sandra Eskin, director, Food Safety, The Pew Charitable Trusts. “We already saw a major step forward in produce safety in January as FDA’s first enforceable food safety standards for fresh fruits and vegetables took effect on large farms.”
Other significant policy developments in Pew’s list include:
- Food and Drug Administration recall guidance. The FDA issued draft guidance on product recalls, including food recalls after a report by the Office of the Inspector General of the Dept. of Health and Human Services said the FDA’s food recall process sometimes falls short of ensuring the safety of the nation’s food supply. A proposed change that The Pew Charitable Trusts and other organizations have supported is disclosing more information about the companies that sold or served recalled products. The draft guidance states that “In some cases, it may also be necessary to include the recalling firm’s supply-chain relationships in order to alert the public of the product being recalled. When possible, FDA encourages firms to provide specifics about firms it sold product to in order to help people better identify and avoid recalled product.”
- The New Swine Slaughter Inspection System (NSIS). The US Dept. of Agriculture released a proposed rule that establishes a new inspection system for pork processors. The NSIS would increase the number of offline inspection tasks of USDA food safety inspectors while continuing 100 percent FSIS inspection of hog carcasses. The rule also would require pork processors to implement HACCP-based inspection measures that prevent contamination throughout the entire production process. Industry groups have supported the hog slaughter modernization plan, while consumer and labor advocates have argued that the NSIS would jeopardize consumers’ safety and the safety of workers in processing plants.
- Food safety funding. The Pew Charitable Trusts noted that President Donald Trump proposed a change in how meat and poultry inspections are funded from taxpayer dollars to user fees collected from businesses under FSIS oversight. “For many years, lawmakers, meat and poultry companies, and consumer advocates have strongly objected to any shift in the funding mechanism from a taxpayer-supported, general good to a program funded directly by the regulated industry,” Erskine wrote. “Meanwhile, with bipartisan support in Congress, FDA’s food safety program has received funding increases for six years running as it implements FSMA. However, this portion of the budget could be targeted for cuts in fiscal 2019.”
- The Farm Bill. A farm bill has sometimes included policies related to meat and poultry safety. For example, the 2008 law created enabled interstate shipment of some state-inspected meat and poultry products. Until then, only federally inspected meat and poultry was allowed into interstate commerce. Pew believes reauthorization of the farm bill is worth watching because it is unclear whether next law will contain meat and poultry safety-related provisions, according to Erskine.