A California federal court Monday ruled in favor of a complaint filed by advocacy groups the Center for Environmental Health and the Center for Food Safety that claimed the Food and Drug Administration was not meeting the deadline for Food Safety Modernization Act implementation.
U.S. District Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton handed down the verdict, ordering the FDA to work with CFS to establish a new timetable to implement the regulations.
"Today is good day for food safety and for consumers," said CFS senior attorney George Kimbrell in a press statement. "Every day without the FSMA regulations is another day where consumers are at unnecessary risk. Because of this decision our food will soon be safer from e coli and other threats."
The FSMA was signed into law in January 2011 and provided 18 months for implementation. The FDA in January, 2013 released the proposed rules, detailing standards for produce safety and preventive controls for human food production and illness.
Since January 2011, FDA said its staff have toured farms and facilities nationwide and participated in meetings and presentations with global regulatory partners, industry stakeholders, consumer groups, farmers, state and local officials, and the research community to develop the new standards.
The intention of the FSMA, according to the FDA, is to focus on illness prevention, enforce higher rates of compliance with food safety standards, and better respond to problems when they occur. Part of the expanded authority is the ability to recall foods and issue guidance and regulation documents.
But, the CFS said, FDA regulations implementing the FSMA mandates were needed before improvements would take effect.
"Congress signaled its intention that the process be close-ended, rather than open-ended," Judge Hamilton said in her ruling. "Thus, the court finds that imposition of an injunction imposing deadlines for finalization of the regulations would be consistent with the underlying purposes of the FSMA."
By rule of the court, the FDA to meet with CFS and CEH and prepare a joint statement setting forth proposed deadlines by May 20, 2013.
For more information on the FSMA, visit the FDA's Food Safety Modernization Act webpage.