The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has launched two Internet-based initiatives that may be noteworthy for MassTortDefense readers involved in food safety issues.
First, the FDA has launched an Internet-based registry to track patterns in contaminated food. The site, explained here, is a result of 2007 legislation requiring food facilities to report potentially dangerous products. Food industry officials are required to use the Reportable Food Registry to alert the FDA when they discover a risk that their products might injure people or animals, the agency stated last week. By fostering real-time submission to the FDA of information on food safety hazards, the registry is supposed to enhance the agency’s ability to act quickly to prevent food-borne illness. The goal is to catch the problem before people get sick.
Facilities that manufacture, process, or hold food for consumption in the U.S. must now tell the FDA within 24 hours if they find a “reasonable probability” that an article of food will cause severe health problems or death to a person or an animal. The reporting requirement, which applies to all foods and animal feed regulated by the FDA, does not reach infant formula and dietary supplements.
Any person who has to submit registration information to the FDA for a food facility that
manufactures, processes, packs, or holds food for human or animal consumption is deemed a “responsible party” and must follow the reporting requirement. A responsible party also must investigate the cause of the adulteration if the adulteration of food may have originated with the responsible party.
The registry’s proposal drew criticism from some industries, and they in fact had asked the FDA last month to extend the effective date for reporting. For example, national organizations representing the grain, feed, grain processing and pet food industries said that, at the very least, the FDA should exercise enforcement discretion in order to provide an appropriate phase-in period. FDA did not do so.
The launch of the FDA registry comes just as Congress is considering a new food safety bill that would give the FDA more funding and greater authority to order recalls of products. The House passed a food safety bill in the summer, and the Senate is expected to take up the issue later this fall.
At the same time, the administration is rolling out a new Web site designed to streamline food safety information for the public. Health and Human Services Secretary Sebelius announced the new Web site last week. The site is a joint effort among HHS, the Department of Agriculture and the FDA.
The site will put food-related information from all federal agencies in one place. It includes sections on how to “Keep Food Safe”; what to do in the case of suspected “Food Poisoning”; a section for industry relating to “Inspections & Compliance”; as well as food news, agency events (such as workshops, meetings, and conferences) for FDA, CDC, USDA; and educational materials on food safety. Of particular interest to our readers may be the links to agency speeches and presentations, communications to Congress, and Congressional testimonies.