A lawsuit filed Wednesday against the FDA alleges that the agency has repeatedly missed mandatory deadlines to implement and enforce regulations established by the Food Safety Modernization Act, which was passed in 2011. The plaintiffs claim that the law, when properly enforced, will save thousands of American lives from food poisoning.
The Center for Food Safety and the Center for Environmental Health filed the suit to try to force the FDA and the Office of Management and Budget to enforce the regulations outlined by the law. The Food Safety Modernization Act is the first overhaul of food safety rules and regulations in the U.S. in more than 70 years, and President Obama called it a hallmark of his term.
Yet the US continues to operate under what the plaintiffs call outdated laws since the agencies responsible for implementing the new regulations have not met deadlines to do so.
The rules would establish standards for possible sources of foodborne illness contamination, require companies to identify those possible causes of contamination and specify a plan to prevent it. They would also force food importers to take responsibility for the safety of the food they import.
The lawsuit states that the FDA has missed hundreds of deadlines outlined by the law, including establish standards for analyzing and documenting hazards and implementing preventative measures, and set minimum standards for safe production and harvesting of certain types of fruits and vegetables, among others.
Nearly one in six Americans—48 million—is made sick each year by food contamination, and among those, nearly 3,000 die. The lawsuit alleges that at least some of these deaths could be prevented by the implementation of the new law.