July 6, 2011

Food and Drug Administration Regulation of Food Safety

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, Georgetown University Law Center, Washington, DC.

JAMA. 2011;306(1):88-89. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.885

Food-borne illness remains a major public health challenge in the United States, causing an estimated 48 million illness episodes and 3000 deaths annually.1 Despite many triumphs in improving food safety, progress in recent years has stalled, with the incidence of food-borne infection remaining steady during the past decade.1 Recent outbreaks linked to spinach, peanut butter, eggs, and the recent Escherichia coli outbreak that originated in Europe have heightened public concern. On January 4, 2011, President Obama signed the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) increasing the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA's) power to regulate food safety, with a focus on prevention, enhanced recall authority, and oversight of imported food.2 The FSMA is a remarkable step forward for the food safety system, affording the FDA much-needed authority. However, the act leaves critical gaps in the regulatory system, including fragmentation among federal agencies, and its potential may be threatened if Congress does not provide sufficient funding to ensure inspections and compliance.

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