FDA Unveils Plan to Bring New Oversight of Food Distribution

The new rules would make broad safety changes to the way companies transport food and cost $149 million in its first year.

By Vicky Nguyen, Jeremy Carroll and Kevin Nious
|  Friday, Jan 31, 2014  |  Updated 6:57 PM PDT
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The FDA has unveiled new rules designed to improve food safety and create uniform federal standards for how human and animal food is transported. The proposal would affect more than 83,000 businesses and is expected to cost $149 million in its first year. Vicky Nguyen reports.

The FDA has unveiled new rules designed to improve food safety and create uniform federal standards for how human and animal food is transported. The proposal would affect more than 83,000 businesses and is expected to cost $149 million in its first year. Vicky Nguyen reports.

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The Food & Drug Administration unveiled details of a new food safety proposal Friday that would establish guidelines for food distributors.

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Many in the industry have described food transportation as the Wild West because of how little federal oversight there is.  A patchwork of state laws currently regulate food transportation. Now, that’s expected to change with the FDA’s proposed Rules on Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food.
 
The change is part of the Food Safety Modernization Act, which the FDA calls “the most sweeping reform of our food safety laws in more than 70 years.” The FDA estimates it will affect 83,609 businesses engaged in food transportation. 
 
Highlights of the new rules include training for employees in sanitary practices and keeping detailed records of sanitary procedures and equipment cleanings, which will be available for inspectors to review. Companies will also be required to maintain proper transport conditions and temperature controls to keep food from becoming contaminated or spoiled.  That means refrigeration for perishable products like meat and eggs. Food and non-food items will have to be separated.
 
The FDA says its goal is to prevent risky practices that jeopardize food safety. It’s a problem NBC Bay Area uncovered last summer when hidden cameras captured Sysco Corporation storing raw food in unrefrigerated sheds. The food sat for hours before it was delivered to restaurants and hotels by employees using personal cars.
 
Sysco announced it stopped that practice after NBC bay Area's investigation. The company is under investigation by the state health department and the USDA.
 
The FDA expects it will cost $1,784 per business to implement these changes for the first year, and $360 per business every year after. But critics say it’s going to be even more expensive for businesses. The FDA is taking comments on the rule until may 31st. No date has been set for when these new regulations will take effect.
 

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