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Last year, 3,000 Americans died from food-borne illnesses. Another 130,000 were hospitalized. No doubt we can do better at protecting consumers. And the Food and Drug Administration is going to try and do just that.
The FDA has proposed new rules that would require food distributors to implement additional measures to combat these illnesses. The guidelines are aimed at improving food handling at the agricultural and manufacturing points. The diseases that sickened and killed those Americans came from peanuts, cheese, cantaloupe, and green leafy vegetables.
One rule would require growers, manufacturers and distributors to develop plans for preventing contamination, including the clean of their equipment and keeping animals away from the crops themselves. Not only that, but mandatory contingency plans for outbreaks must be established by businesses and those plans must be approved by the government.
No doubt there were be push back by the food industry if these standards were uniform across the board, so the FDA is proposing different levels of enforcement. For instance, there would be higher standards for foods intended to be eaten raw, like tomatoes. The standards wouldn't be quite as strict for those vegetables designed to be cooked.
It might take a year to implement, but processors are being urged to move right away on cleaning up their operations. Many have been found to be lacking in cleanliness.
But the new rules are coming from the fields to the store shelves and hopefully they'll give us more confidene in the safety of the food we eat.