Historic New Federal Food Safety Law Presented to Florida Packinghouses

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LAKE ALFRED | Quietly amid the more widely covered Washington news over health care, the budget and the economy, President Barack Obama in January signed a historic new law that will affect how food is produced, shipped and consumed across the world.

The Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011 was the first major reform of food safety regulations since 1938, said Mickey Parish, a senior adviser with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which will write and enforce 50 new regulations and guidelines under the law during the next three years.

“It established a new paradigm: prevent contamination,” Parish told about 70 citrus growers, packinghouse officials and academics at the 50th Annual Citrus Packinghouse Day at the Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred on Thursday. “Prior to this time, all we could do is react to contaminated food that got on the market.”

Previously, the FDA could only recommend a company recall contaminated products, he said. The new law gives FDA new powers to order recalls, bar entry of imported food products that don’t meet U.S. safety guidelines and require food producers, handlers and importers to assess risks every three years and keep records that they’ve addressed those hazards.

When food illness outbreaks occur, the FDA has new authority to inspect those records, said Parish, a Polk County native who worked at the Lake Alfred center for 20 years until 2005.

Annually, 48 million Americans get food illnesses, of which 128,000 grow serious enough to require hospitalization, he said. About 3,000 people die annually from food illnesses, and survivors can sustain lifelong complications, including kidney failure.

Some 38 million people among those 48 million cases never discover what caused their illness, said Martha Roberts, dean for agricultural research at the University of Florida. About 12 percent of illnesses stem from produce.

Florida packinghouses processed and shipped 32.5 million cartons of fresh citrus worldwide. About 70 percent of the state’s tangerine crop and more than 30 percent of its grapefruit are sold on the fresh market.

“This program can avert potential losses to the grower and the packer,” said Peter Chaires, Lakeland-based Florida Citrus Packers, the fresh citrus trade group. “It takes only one incident. It doesn’t require an outbreak.”

Not everybody in the industry has gotten the message, however.

During a panel discussion Thursday, Ray Chandler, a manager at the Packers of Indian River Inc., a Fort Pierce packinghouse, read an email from an unidentified employee who said he’s attended several training sessions on food safety but that his employer doesn’t seem to take the issue seriously.

Everyone in the industry needs to take food safety seriously and prevail upon others to do so, Chandler said.

Parish urged Florida citrus officials to become active in the rule-making process.

Growers and consumers can get more information about the new food law at www.fda.gov/fsma.

 

LAKE ALFRED | Quietly amid the more widely covered Washington news over health care, the budget and the economy, President Barack Obama in January signed a historic new law that will affect how food is produced, shipped and consumed across the world.

The Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011 was the first major reform of food safety regulations since 1938, said Mickey Parish, a senior adviser with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which will write and enforce 50 new regulations and guidelines under the law during the next three years.

“It established a new paradigm: prevent contamination,” Parish told about 70 citrus growers, packinghouse officials and academics at the 50th Annual Citrus Packinghouse Day at the Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred on Thursday. “Prior to this time, all we could do is react to contaminated food that got on the market.”

Previously, the FDA could only recommend a company recall contaminated products, he said. The new law gives FDA new powers to order recalls, bar entry of imported food products that don’t meet U.S. safety guidelines and require food producers, handlers and importers to assess risks every three years and keep records that they’ve addressed those hazards.

When food illness outbreaks occur, the FDA has new authority to inspect those records, said Parish, a Polk County native who worked at the Lake Alfred center for 20 years until 2005.

Annually, 48 million Americans get food illnesses, of which 128,000 grow serious enough to require hospitalization, he said. About 3,000 people die annually from food illnesses, and survivors can sustain lifelong complications, including kidney failure.

Some 38 million people among those 48 million cases never discover what caused their illness, said Martha Roberts, dean for agricultural research at the University of Florida. About 12 percent of illnesses stem from produce.

Florida packinghouses processed and shipped 32.5 million cartons of fresh citrus worldwide. About 70 percent of the state’s tangerine crop and more than 30 percent of its grapefruit are sold on the fresh market.

“This program can avert potential losses to the grower and the packer,” said Peter Chaires, Lakeland-based Florida Citrus Packers, the fresh citrus trade group. “It takes only one incident. It doesn’t require an outbreak.”

Not everybody in the industry has gotten the message, however.

During a panel discussion Thursday, Ray Chandler, a manager at the Packers of Indian River Inc., a Fort Pierce packinghouse, read an email from an unidentified employee who said he’s attended several training sessions on food safety but that his employer doesn’t seem to take the issue seriously.

Everyone in the industry needs to take food safety seriously and prevail upon others to do so, Chandler said.

Parish urged Florida citrus officials to become active in the rule-making process.

source:   theledger.com

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