Delayed Rules and Food Safety

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Too often, important regulations drafted by federal agencies that would protect Americans from harm are stalled for months or years at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). CSS’ recently released report, Down the Regulatory Rabbit hole, details eight key regulations stalled in the regulatory process, whose delay has provoked serious consequences. The nomination of the next OIRA administrator presents an opportunity for a change of course. New leadership at OIRA could reverse this trend and make the agency a proactive force for issuing much-needed standards and safeguards that will ensure the safety of our food, protect workers from harm and make our vehicles safer.

The new administrator, for example, can make sure that crucial food safety rules are issued. Congress passed the Food Safety Modernization Act two and a half years ago, ordering the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to issue a series of regulations requiring food importers to implement strong foreign supplier verification programs, which would ensure that imported food meets U.S. food safety standards. But that rule has been held at OIRA for more than a year. The rule — and several other rules under the food safety law — need to be issued to greatly reduce the cases of foodborne illnesses, which disproportionately harm the elderly and the young.

These rules couldn’t come soon enough. In 2012, there were 45 food recalls and safety alerts, according to the FDA. That’s up from 19 in 2011, and 25 in 2010. From January 2011 to September 2012 there were:

·        1,753 foodborne illnesses linked to recalled food products;

·        464 hospitalizations due to recalled food products;

·        37 deaths linked to recalls of food products;

·        1,446 incidents of salmonella linked to recalls of food products; and

·        165 incidences of listeria linked to recalled food.

Senators should ask Howard Shelanski, the nominee for OIRA administrator, if he would allow the foreign supplier verification program rule and other rules to continue to be blocked.

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