The Food and Drug Administration proposed new rules on Friday aiming to prevent outbreaks like those experienced in recent years, such as salmonella from peanuts and listeria from cantaloupe.
The rules are among the first flexing the FDA’s new powers outlined in the Food Safety Modernization Act. By tightening oversight, the sweeping rules will prevent future incidents of the dangerous conditions found at the peanut butter and cantaloupe farms:
In a 2011 outbreak of listeria in cantaloupe that claimed 33 lives, for example, FDA inspectors found pools of dirty water on the floor and old, dirty processing equipment at the Colorado farm where the cantaloupes were grown. In a peanut butter outbreak this year linked to 42 salmonella illnesses, inspectors found samples of salmonella throughout a New Mexico peanut processing plant and multiple obvious safety problems, such as birds flying over uncovered trailers of peanuts and employees not washing their hands.
The 2011 legislation is the first major food safety overhaul in over 70 years, even though food contamination sickens one in six Americans and treatment alone costs an estimated $152 billion every year.