While it’s an exciting time to be a food safety and nutrition advocate, it is also a time of great frustration and many challenges. It I could write the President’s New Year’s Resolutions related to food, here’s what I would put on that list.
- Release the long-delayed FSMA rules: When the President signed the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in 2011, it was a proud and exciting moment for all those who care about food safety. Unfortunately, there has been quite a delay in the implementation of the law. Most notably, four integral rules have been stalled for over a year at OMB. It’s time to prevent further outbreaks of foodborne illness by giving FDA the tools to prevent rather than simply responding to foodborne illnesses.
- Congress needs to pass a farm bill: Theoretically, Congress passes a farm bill every five years. This bill governs not only farm policy for the nation, but also conservation and nutrition programs. Unfortunately, this year’s farm bill has become yet another victim of partisan bickering in Washington. Come the new year, consumers will begin to feel the effects of this, as programs revert to older legislation. Dairy prices in particular are predicted to rise precipitously without a new farm bill. Let’s pass a farm bill that will protect consumers.
- Establish more coordinated efforts to ensure food safety: A recent report by USDA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) on the safety of shell eggs highlighted the fact that there is a need for increased coordination between the various agencies that work on food safety. One of the classic examples of this lack of coordination is a factory that makes pizza; it the pizza is a cheese pizza, then FDA has jurisdiction over its safety, whereas if it is a sausage or pepperoni pizza, USDA has jurisdiction.
- Keep politics out of the development of regulations: OK, so this may be the most ambitious of my resolutions. However, I strongly believe in the idea that government regulations should be science-based and should protect the consumer. An example of politics getting too involved in policy came last year when Congress got involved in new USDA rules that would have placed reasonable limitations on the amount of potatoes that could be served in school lunches. We need to minimize the impact of shifting politics on important policies.