Food and Drug Administration (FDA) chalked out the details of a new rule on Tuesday, which will help prevent contamination during transportation of food products. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that roughly 48 million people (1 in 6) Americans get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of food borne diseases each year.

Food Contamination — FDA Approves 6th Rule

This new rule, ‘Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food’, deals directly with food transportation services and instructs food haulers to adopt ‘best practices for sanitary transportation’, like properly storing the food, keeping the transportation vehicles clean and protecting and handling the food according to set protocols during the transport. The FDA’s rulings are listed under Sanitary Food Transportation Act 2005 (SFTA) and Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA), Section 111.

Under the umbrella of FSMA, this was the sixth rule, in a list expected to have seven rules, which made it through the process. Rules for Preventive Controls For Human Food and Animal Food, the Produce Safety rule, Foreign Supplier Verification program rule and the Accreditation of Third-Party Certification rule were the first five that were finalized last year.

The sixth one, Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food, was the antecedent of the first five rules, all ensuring the safe transportation of food within United States either by rail or a motor vehicle.

The rule applies for both interstate and intera-state transport of food. Loaders, shippers, carriers and receivers involved in food transportation services, particularly the food that ends up being consumed and distributed in the United States, are subject to this rule.

The seventh rule (still under discussion), Mitigation Strategies To Protect Food Against Intentional Adulteration is expected to be finalized by the end of 2016. The seven rules would work together to strengthen the food chains in United States, in terms of safety and public health protection.

From its first proposal on February 2014 till its day of finalization, FDA underwent an extensive consideration of more than 200 comments submitted by transportation and food industry, government regulatory partners, international trading partners, tribal organizations, consumer advocates, and other relevant parties.

It was a long awaited decision, as recent food borne outbreak reports in USA have already created much panic. The reports on outbreak of Listeria Monocytogenes, Salmonella Montevideo, Salmonella Muenchen, Salmonella Virchow, Salmonella Sandiego, and Salmonella Poona have been in the limelight since last year.

FDA in a press release also recognized the need of ‘partnership, education and training’ to ensure better implementation for all the FSMA rules. In order to effectively train people before implementation, a period of one year is given to the businesses after the publication of the final rule, to comply with the changes. Smaller businesses are given two years to act in accordance with the rule.

“We recognize the importance of education and training in achieving widespread compliance, and we are committed to working with both industry and our government partners to ensure effective implementation of all of the new food safety rules under the Food Safety Modernization Act,” said Michael R. Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine at the FDA.

Recognizing the chances of adverse events and the potential threat of a food contamination event, President Barack Obama signed the bill into a law on January 4, 2011. The Food Safety Modernization Act 2010 (FSMA) shifts focus from responding to an event of a possible contamination of food to preventing it. It is claimed by the FDA as the ‘most sweeping reform’ of United States food laws in more than 70 years.

The law gives authority to the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to implement new rules to prevent food contaminations and potentially order rather than suggest the recall of tainted food products. The law has also authorized the formation of a food tracking system that would be helpful in deducing the origin of an outbreak. Creation of a searchable database for each recalled product, inspection of high risk food processing facilities, and inspection of 600 overseas facilities, were also on the agenda.

At the time of the legislation’s approval, Congressional Budget Office estimated the bill’s provision would increase government spending on food safety by 1.4 billion dollars, over the next five years. Some analysts feared that this could mean even ‘higher food prices’, but the Agency Director Margaret Hamburg was optimistic that the Congress would provide necessary resources for the bill’s implementation.

Recently, FDA announced its plan to ask for $5.1 billion from President Barack Obama’s fiscal budget of 2017, which is eight percent higher than the previous year’s budget. This would potentially provide additional resources to the FSMA, with an increase of $25.3 million. The funds would focus on two key areas: National Integrated Food Safety System with $11.3 million, and new Import Safety Systems with $14 million worth of resources.