Two new rules proposed last week by the Food and Drug Administration could prevent thousands of hospitalizations for foodborne illnesses such as Salmonella and e. coli each year if implemented, according to a report from CNN Health.
The rules—one requiring "science-based standards for growing, harvesting, packing and holding produce on domestic and foreign farms" and another creating guidelines for "preventative controls for human food"—will be available for public comment for 120 days, and if they go into effect as written, companies would have up to four years to comply.
The rules would also require companies to have plans in case of an outbreak of foodborne illnesses, such as the recently Salmonella outbreak linked to the Sunland nut-processing plant in Portales, N.M.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in six Americans suffers from a foodborne illness each year. About 130,000 of those people are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from the illnesses.
"We really need to do more than react after the fact," said FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg in a news conference with reporters. "Preventing problems before they cause harm is not only common sense, it is key to food safety in the 21st century."
Before proposing the new rules, the FDA held multiple federal, regional, state and local meetings across 14 states. The agency also visited farms and facilities.
"We know one-size-fits-all rules won't work," said Michael R. Taylor, the FDA's deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, in a news release. "We've worked to develop proposed regulations that can be both effective and practical across today's diverse food system."
The FDA also plans to introduce rules on new responsibilities for importers to verify that food products grown or processed overseas are as safe as domestically produced food and accreditation standards, as well as preventative controls for animal food facilities.