Food Safety News - Iowa State University Extension

FDA’s New Posture Is Promising, Not Pathetic


Sarah Klein

As stakeholders begin wading in to the proposed food safety rules released by FDA this month, it is inevitable that some critics will begin cherry picking issues and holding them up as proof positive that the rules—and the entire Food Safety Modernization Act—are doomed to fail. That’s the position taken by Baylen Linnekin in an Opinion piece recently published on Food Safety News calling the proposals “pathetic” and “outrageous” (The FDA’s Pathetic Food Safety Proposal). But Linnekin overlooks much of FSMA’s value in his attempt to discredit the rules. One of the key elements—indeed, the central element—of FSMA was the paradigm shift that turned FDA from a reactive agency to a preventive one. While Linnekin sees that shift as agency overreach, most stakeholders view it as a needed and overdue change in food regulation, which has too often focused narrowly on the problems identified in the most recent outbreak. Many of those who worked on the law saw the focus on prevention as a fundamental shift in the way the FDA does business, and spent years crafting a law that maximized the benefits of prevention within the boundaries of realistic implementation. Linnekin says that “big business, academia, public health, the media, and government” were a “predictable” group of supporters. Ironically, Linnekin fails to see exactly how unpredictable such a coalition was. It is highly unusual for consumer advocates and industry groups, for example, to advocate together for the passage of reform—and yet that’s exactly what happened with FSMA. Not because, as Linnekin suggests, the law’s impact will be “minimal,” but instead because all the stakeholders recognized just how badly reform was needed.

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