CALIFORNIA – A California federal judge has ordered the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services to publish information about foods at high risk for foodborne illnesses. The judge also ordered the agency to require producers of the high risks foods to keep records that will be made public.
The order, handed down by U.S. District Court Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, was issued in a civil case against the two agencies brought by the Center for Food Safety and the Center for Environmental Health. The plaintiffs alleged that the FDA and HHS were not timely taking steps to educate the public and address matters of foodborne illness.
By way of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) of 2011, the FDA has the authority to follow potential illness-causing ingredients and order recalls of food products. The civil lawsuit alleges that the FDA is not using its powers in the spirit of FSMA. Namely, the FDA has not been tracking high-risk foods that are most frequently the subjects of food recalls.
Though the judicial order and the lawsuit do not specify what foods are considered high risk, they probably include produce items, such as lettuce, spinach, and certain fruits. These foods tend to be associated with bacteria growth and related food recalls.
When the FDA designates high-risk foods, which it was reportedly supposed to do in 2012 under FSMA, it will initiate mandatory record-keeping protocols that help to identify the sources of contamination and prevent future contamination. The records will also be available to the public.
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