With Election 2012 in the rearview mirror, can everyone in the food supply chain—breeders and growers, processors and sellers, regulators and consumers—finally expect to see the long-awaited regulations needed to enforce the Food Safety Modernization Act?
The Obama administration—via the Office of Management and Budget—says yes. After the Huffington Post published an article in late November on the prospects of the FSMA being fully rolled out in the near future, OMB spokeswoman Moira Mack issued the following statement: “The Obama administration is committed to food safety, and we have taken key steps including putting out a food safety rule cracking down on Salmonella in eggs and expanding E. coli testing for beef. We are working as expeditiously as possible to implement the food safety 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.”
Michael Doyle, PhD, regents professor of food microbiology and director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia in Griffin, predicted, “Right after the first of the year, they’re going to move quickly.” He said he believes the administration will promulgate food regulations over the next several months. “There’s so much to be released, I don’t think the agency could keep up with it all.”
Dr. Doyle said it’s not clear what will be a priority, but mandates on produce may be some of the first. “It’s really in the crosshairs as a leading vehicle of foodborne illness right now,” he said. “And import regulations are probably near the top of the list, too, as a present and growing concern.”
How quickly and effectively the administration will be able to implement many of these rules will depend on the budget talks underway on Capitol Hill. “That could get in the way, of course. If there are major cutbacks, it will be across all agencies,” Dr. Doyle noted.