AC Alert for May 9, 2012 Food Safety Rules: Why the Delay?

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Thursday, May 10, 2012 - 6:30pm

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In January 2011 President Barack Obama signed into law a landmark food safety bill which had been strongly supported by an unusual coalition of consumer advocates and industry groups. The new law followed a series of highly-publicized events which worked to undermine public confidence in the safety of the nation’s food supply. "Trust" in food matters is of critical importance -- what we put in our bodies every day must meet the strictest standards of "trust" and "accountability" to ensure public confidence in the food supply/system.

The President of the United States had made food safety a top priority of his new administration -- and the new law seemed consistent with this goal.

However, 15 months after the ceremonial bill signing, key aspects of the law have yet to be implemented. Why the delay? AC editors recently researched the issue -- and according to knowledgeable sources, the hold-up appears to be in the Obama Administration itself.

As The Washington Post reported: “Key provisions are hung up at a unit of the White House that is in charge of reviewing proposed policy changes. The delay at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) baffles consumer advocates and industry groups, which joined forces to lobby for passage of the legislation and press for its funding.

"The united front by this unusual alliance — and the president’s enthusiastic endorsement of the legislation in the past — makes the hold-up especially puzzling.

"In recent letters to the administration, nearly half a dozen groups expressed frustration with the OMB. Erik Olson, director of food programs at the Pew Health Group, which co-wrote one of the letters with the Grocery Manufacturers Association says that until this new package of safeguards is put into place, all the promise of the new food-safety law will not be met. OMB officials say the duration of this review is not unusual given the complexity of the regulations..."  (Full details in the link to original story.)

The new law empowers the US Food and Drug Administration to prevent food-borne illnesses -- not just reacting to them. The law's provisions require produce farmers, food-processing facilities and animal-food plants to adopt strategies that would help them spot and combat food-safety hazards and mandates that imported food imported meet the same safety standards as food produced domestically.

But -- to get started, the OMB must approve draft rules; these are open for public comments, and then are implemented.  An executive order gives the OMB 90 days to review proposed regulations.

There are various deadlines -- the import rule was to be in final form by January 2012 and the produce rule by this coming July 4.  Some experts tracking the issue say that the OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) raised questions about the FDA’s analysis of the provisions’costs and benefits.   (Source: The Washington Post)

No matter what the reason for delays, food safety advocates remain puzzled by the delay and AC editors will continue to monitor this developing situation in our special Hot Topic “Focus on Food Safety.’

Food Safety is really all about Accountability and trust.  The AC Hot Topic on Food Safety section is designed to present timely and useful news and information, a range of commentary, and research on food safety topics.  Our objective is to improve and expand the public dialogue and contribute to the goal of safer food sources, processing and monitoring for citizens across the country and around the world. Here are some recent excerpts from that section:

Third-deadliest U.S. food outbreak was preventable, experts say
(Source: CNN) After a months-long investigation surrounding the cantaloupe listeria outbreak, CNN identifies gaps in the federal food safety net, which is supposed to protect American consumers of fresh produce.

Mad cow scare shows how well nation's food-safety system works
(Source: Athens online) While the California dairy cow that tested positive for mad cow disease made national headlines, livestock and food-safety experts say the real story is how well the nation’s food-safety system worked.

Mad cow discovery reignites debate: Are U.S. food-safety laws too lax?
(Source: Mercury News) The fourth case of Mad Cow disease detected in the U.S. since 2003 is sparking new debate about whether food-safety laws are adequate to protect public health.

USDA unveils rules to speed tracking of tainted meat
(Source: USA Today) The federal government is unveiling new provisions to keep potentially deadly E. coli from infiltrating the food chain. The updated rules by the US Department of Agriculture allow inspectors to begin looking for contaminated meat as soon as early testing shows a potential problem. The policy is designed to speed up the USDA's ability to track down contaminated hamburger and ground beef.

China shuts Coke plant after chlorine reports
(Source: AFP) Coca-Cola Company has been ordered to temporarily halt production at a bottling plant in northern China after media reports of chlorine in its products, according to a government statement. Shanxi Province ordered an investigation after reports that some drinks contained water with chlorine.

4 accused of distributing contaminated cheese
(Source: Business Week) Prosecutors have indicted four people for allegedly ignoring U.S. Food and Drug Administration orders and distributing more than 110,000 pounds of contaminated cheese. Some of it contained salmonella, E. coli and other potentially harmful bacteria.


The 10 Deadliest Outbreaks in U.S. History – Revisited
(Source: Food Safety News) The list of the 10 most deadly outbreaks of food- and waterborne illness in U.S. history, previously published by Food Safety News, has been recently revised for a presentation in Sacramento to the California Environmental Health Association. Added to the list is a 1903 outbreak of typhoid fever in Ithaca, NY, which caused 82 deaths, among them 29 Cornell University students. Dropped from the list was the 2006 E. coli outbreak involving bagged spinach grown in San Benito County, California. There were five fatalities in that outbreak, in which about 200 people became ill after eating bagged spinach.

Food Safety will continue to be a focus of interest among corporations, members of Congress and the general public. This is a subject which transcends all political and geographic boundaries. AC readers will continue to be able to read about it all here under the Hot Topic of Food Safety.

As always, we are interested in your comments on this important topic as well. Do you have an incident regarding food safety which you would like to share with our readers? Send the information to

This is just a sampling of the information in our Alert. Go here for the full text of this alert, and more information on Sustainability, and other Accountability related topics.

Keywords: Media & Communications | Accountability | Accountability-Central | Carbon Footprint | Climate Change / Global Warming | Conservation | Corporate Social Responsibility | Eco Thinking | G&A Institute | Global Warming | Green | Green Business

CONTENT: Newsletter