Food Safety Testing Requirement Axed In White House Review

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in January proposed a food safety rule that lacked a requirement for food makers to actually test for germs. The requirement had been removed by a shadowy White House office known as OIRA -- where industry can lobby in secret to overturn science-based rules such as this one, meant to prevent one million illnesses per year.

"At the very beginning of 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released its proposals for the most important food safety regulations in a generation. The proposed rule on 'Current Good Manufacturing Practice and Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls For Human Food,' lays out the procedures that food manufacturers -- cookie factories, grocery warehouses, frozen foods packagers -- would need to implement in order to reduce the risk that their products would harbor pathogens. The proposal grew out of the landmark Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) passed exactly two years earlier, and it aimed to prevent one million illnesses a year.

One strange quirk of the proposed rule, though, is that it doesn't require facilities to conduct microbiological testing to confirm that their food safety programs are working. It says that manufacturers can swab surfaces or test samples of finished goods for microbes if they like, but it puts them under no obligation to do so. Food safety advocates said that the lack of a requirement cuts the chances that following the regulations would reduce food poisoning.

'Testing is crucial to verify that your control programs are working, to have some data that says, 'yes, what we're doing works.' Otherwise, you're just guessing,' food safety expert Doug Powell told HuffPost in January 2013. 'It's not much better than astrology. It's faith-based food safety.'

Newly released documents discovered by Food Chemical News show that the FDA tried to mandate microbiological testing in its first draft of the regulations. But the agency was rebuffed by the White House's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), the part of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that reviews proposed regulations, according to Food Chemical News."

Joe Satran reports for Huffington Post March 26, 2013.

SEE ALSO:

"HHS Documents Reveal OMB Edits Of FSMA Preventive Controls Proposal" (Food Chemical News)

Source: Huffington Post, 03/27/2013