The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has proposed stricter guidelines for ensuring the safety of imported food. The rules were announced on July 26 as part of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) of 2011.
For the first time, importers will need to verify that the products they bring into the U.S. are safe for consumption. There will be strict accountability for ensuring that the imports will not lead to foodborne illnesses, which affect some 48 million people every year.
Prior to passage of the law, imported food was not subject to the same regulations as domestically produced agriculture. This was a problem, as 15 percent of the food Americans eat comes from abroad, twice as much as a decade ago, according to The New York Times. As U.S. citizens become more dependent on food grown elsewhere, the more difficult it will be to practice a healthy, green lifestyle.
"FSMA provides the FDA with a modern tool kit that shifts the paradigm for imports, as well as domestic foods, from a strategy of reaction to one of systematic prevention," Michael R. Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, said in a news release. "Rather than relying primarily on FDA investigators at the ports to detect and respond to food safety problems, importers would, for the first time, be held accountable for verifying, in a manner transparent to the FDA, that the food they import is safe."
As is typical with legislation passed by Congress, much of the regulatory framework was left up to executive agencies to determine the best rules that will balance safety with consumer welfare.