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FDA Proposes Tighter Safety Rules For Food Importers

SILVER SPRING, Md. (UPI) — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration Friday proposed rules to increase safety of imported food, with one FDA commissioner calling it a “big step.”

“This is a big step. It’s part of the transformation effort of the U.S. food system toward prevention,” said Commissioner Michael Taylor, who backed the new rules.

The new rules are subject to a 120-day comment period and could be changed or delayed due to comments received.

But the rules are already long-delayed, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The rules were part of the Food Safety and Modernization Act, which President Barack Obama signed into law in January 2011.

Until now, the rules stalled, however, at the White House Office of Management and Budget, which did not respond to requests for comment on why processing the rules became delayed, the Journal said.

The rules require importers to meet the same safety standards as domestic food distributors.

Importers, who will be audited to see if they are complying with the rules, will have to monitor their suppliers to see what they are doing to cut down on food risks.

Imported foods have been blamed for numerous disease outbreaks, including sushi from India that sickened 400 people in 2012 and an incident in which 16 people became sick this after eating tahini, a sesame paste, from Turkey.

Both of those outbreaks were caused by salmonella bacteria.

Erik Olson, director of food programs at the Pew Charitable Trusts, said the government, currently, is able to check only about 2 percent of the food imports for safety concerns.

“This is a big deal in our view,” Olson said.

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