The consent agreement (http://bit.ly/1o1bc8K), issued by the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California, appears to be the final chapter on a legal action brought against the FDA by consumer activist groups. The Center for Food Safety and the Center for Environmental Health filed a lawsuit in August 2012 charging that the FDA illegally missed deadlines for food safety rules set by Congress in the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act.
The court last year agreed with the groups and issued deadlines for all FDA food safety regulations by mid-2015, but the FDA appealed and asked the court to reconsider.
The consent agreement, signed by the FDA, the Center for Food Safety and the Center for Environmental Health, creates a new time line for finishing the food safety law rules. The document does allow the FDA to extend the deadlines for food safety regulations if the agency wins support from the Center for Food Safety and the Center for Environmental Health.
The FDA’s new timeline for final regulations is:
- Preventive Controls for Human Food: Aug. 30, 2015;
- Preventive Controls for Animal Food: Aug. 30, 2015;
- Foreign Supplier Verification Program: Oct. 31, 2015;
- Produce Safety Standards; Oct. 31, 2015;
- Accreditation of Third Party Auditors: Oct. 31, 2015; and
- Sanitary Transport of Food and Feed: March 31, 2016.
The consent agreement’s later deadlines are positive, one industry food safety leader said.
“We are encouraged that FDA has been allowed to push back the June 2015 deadline for these rules,” United Fresh Produce Association’s David Gombas, senior vice president of food safety and technology, said in a news release. “Each rule represents major changes to the industry and FDA in how the safety of human and animal food is controlled and regulated, both domestically and imported. It’s critical that FDA have the time to ensure that the final rules are right.”