Back in January 2011, the government signed a law that said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration would have to undertake an overhaul in food safety regulations, the first of its kind in about 70 years. Well, time’s been a-ticking and now a new lawsuit leveled at the agency claims the FDA has missed a bunch of deadlines required by the Food Safety Modernization Act. But the FDA says that’s not the case, it’s just that it’s a big job that it’ll take time.
The lawsuit was filed by two non-profit public interest advocacy groups, the Center for Food Safety and the Center for Environmental Health. Those groups believe the FDA’s inaction could put consumers at risk from food-borne illnesses. Listeria ring a bell for anyone? How about salmonella? Do not want.
But the FDA is seeking to dismiss the suit, in a motion filed recently in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. It’s just too massive of a project to happen quickly, insists the FDA
The motion reads, in part (via Reuters):
“The enormity and scope of the task given to FDA cannot be overstated… . FDA has devoted enormous effort and resources to developing the novel and complex regulations… . Although FDA has been unable to meet the aggressive statutory timelines… there is no indication that Congress believed that strict adherence to those timetables is more important than careful consideration and development of these complex regulations…”
In other words, slow your roll — those missed deadlines were more like guidelines. But the groups pushing for the FDA to get a move on say those deadlines were mandatory and required by law. They want officials to start enforcing that law.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 3,000 deaths per year are caused by food-borne illnesses. Food contamination is a big issue — as the public saw with outbreaks of food-related illnesses connected with spinach, cantaloupe, eggs and other products. These rules would establish standards for any source of fresh fruits and vegetables and make importers responsible for the food they bring into the country.
A senior attorney for the Center for Food Safety says the FDA is straight up breaking the law by missing those deadlines and it shouldn’t be okay to do that.
“They are not disputing that they missed the deadlines Congress set. They are just arguing those deadlines essentially don’t matter,” he said.
On the one hand, we get that continuing to live without these regulations could endanger the public’s health, but on the other, making sure the rules are implemented in a thorough and effective way that will produce positive results and keep the public safety just might take time.
Previously in “Food Is Scary” News: 8 Horrifying Things We Learned From Bloomberg Report On Inept, Ineffective Food Inspectors