In my role as policy consultant for the Center for Food Safety (CFS), I recently wrote about how the Obama Administration is playing politics and putting public health at risk by stalling on critical food safety regulations needed to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act. I am happy to report that the lawyers at Center for Food Safety aren’t waiting any longer. Along with the Center for Environmental Health, CFS has filed a lawsuit in federal court against both the Food and Drug Administration and the White House Office of Management and Budget for failing to comply with mandated statutory deadlines.
The Food Safety Modernization Act was the first food safety overhaul in over 70 years for the United States. It was signed into law in January 2011. But lacking implementation of the law’s provisions, most of the U.S. food system continues to operate under what public health advocates say are outdated laws. The new rules have remained at the White House’s Office of Management and Budget since late 2011 when the Food and Drug Administration submitted proposed versions.
Andy Kimbrell, executive director of CFS told Reuters: “The bill is useless unless the agencies actually promulgate regulations that make it work. This is very serious. They are twiddling their bureaucratic thumbs while Americans become sick and die.”
That’s no exaggeration. Remember last year’s devastating Listeria outbreak in cantaloupe that killed 33 people and sent another 143 to the hospital? Just last week, FDA announced yet another outbreak in cantaloupe, this time from Salmonella, that has so far killed two people in Kentucky and sickened 178 people across 21 states. And this week brought yet another Salmonella outbreak, this time in mangoes imported from Mexico. All of these incidents could be prevented with better regulatory oversight.
That’s why I am happy to work with lawyers who understand that when government fails to do its job, whether it’s for political reasons or just incompetence, you have to use all the legal tools at your disposal. It’s also why when I listed my Top 10 Lawyers Working to Improve the Food System, Center for Food Safety’s leader Andy Kimbrell came to mind first. We need more lawyers like him and his legal team to hold both the food industry and government accountable for protecting the nation’s food supply.
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