The Food Safety Modernization Act was signed into law last year but has yet to be enforced.
Regulations implementing the law are awaiting approval by the Office of Management and Budget (OBM), which is responsible for evaluating their effectiveness and making sure they are consistent with administration policies.
The FDA covers most of the nation’s food supply, with the exception of meat, poultry and processed eggs, which are under the USDA’s purview. The Food Safety Modernization Act allows the FDA to issue mandatory recalls and hire more food-safety inspectors .
USA TODAY points out that by executive order, OMB is authorized to review new rules for three months and can extend the review period for an additional month. These rules have been at OMB for more than seven months.
OMB spokeswoman Moira Mack says public safety regulations can require extensive review.
“The administration is working as expeditiously as possible to implement this legislation we fought so hard for. When it comes to rules with this degree of importance and complexity, it is critical that we get it right,” she says.
Food-safety advocates and industry groups take issue with Mack’s comment.
“There is no good reason for this delay,” says Erik Olson, director of food programs with the Pew Health Group, a part of the Pew Charitable Trusts.
“What’s important is that these new protections of our food supply be put into place as soon as possible to protect all Americans from getting sick from contaminated food.”
“You really have to wonder who is advising the president to delay these regulations,” says Caroline Smith DeWaal, food-safety director with the non-profit Center for Science in the Public Interest.
Delays in implementation aside, the efficacy of the Food Safety Modernization Act is questionable — which explains why it received such strong support from Big Food: Kraft, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Kellogg, Walmart, Kroger, Cargill and Tyson.
The Act allows for foreign supplier verification programs that makes importing companies responsible for the safety of the foods they bring into the United States, and permits food companies to police themselves in identifying possible sources of contamination.
Additionally, although the Testor Amendment exempts small farms and food producers from the entirety of the regulations of the Food Safety Modernization Act, Eric Blair notes:
“If Grandma wants to sell her famous raspberry jam at the county fair (within 275 miles of her canning kitchen) she will indeed be a qualified for small producer exemptions, but not before she forks over 3 years of financials, documentation of hazard control plans, and all local licenses, permits, and inspection reports. She must submit this documentation to the satisfactory approval of the Secretary; and if she fails to do so, the entirety of S.510 can be enforced on her. That’s hardly what I would call an exemption.”
And for organic farmers who want to expand, well, you can never grow your business bigger than that $500,000 in revenue.
One farmer notes: “It has made us start to totally re-look at our business plans and how we’re going to sell our food. We’re no longer going to sell wholesale, no longer going to sell to chefs or restaurants, it’s consumer direct only.”