November 03, 2011 Articles

The Food Safety Modernization Act: Another Law of Unintended Consequences?

By Gary Wolensky, Anne Marie Ellis, and Kelly Regan

On January 4, 2011, President Obama signed the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) into law. This law represents the most sweeping change to the U.S. food safety system in more than 70 years. The new legislation was prompted in part by the recent high-profile outbreaks of food poisoning in the United States. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one out of every six Americans contracts a food-borne illness every year, or about 48 million people annually. Of those, an estimated 128,000 people will be hospitalized, and 3,000 will die each year. The underlying goal of the FSMA is to enable the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to better protect public health by ensuring the safety and security of the food supply. It is intended to allow the FDA to focus more on preventing food safety problems rather than reacting to problems after they occur. Is this another poorly-thought-out law, such as the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act and the health care legislation? Or is it designed to accomplish its intended purpose?

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