Approximately 3,000 people die each year from eating contaminated food, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The estimated 48 million cases of foodborne illness cases that occur annually in the U.S. also result in 128,000 people being hospitalized. Tainted cucumbers imported from Mexico by Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce have killed two people and made 341 others in 30 states ill, according to the CDC. A recent listeria outbreak caused by Texas-based Blue Bell Creameries LP killed three people.
The new FDA rules are part of the Food Safety Modernization Act passed by Congress five years ago and are intended to tighten federal oversight over the food manufacturing industry.
The new regulations require companies to develop and implement written plans for food safety that include identifying hazards and developing measures to reduce the risk of contamination. They must also have mechanisms to verify that steps taken to reduce the risk of foodborne pathogens like salmonella, listeria and E. coli are effective.
The rules give the FDA the authority to access a company’s food-safety plans and take action if it fails to comply with the rules. They are a sharp departure from the previous regulatory approach, which addressed food contamination after it had occurred.
All food companies will have to comply with the new rules by 2018.