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Imported Foods Now Subject to New Safety Requirements

Posted By Regan Zambri Long, PLLC || 16-Nov-2015

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Posted by: Salvatore J. Zambri, founding member and partner

As recently reported by the New York Times, new laws by the Food and Drug Administration now include regulations to prevent importation of contaminated food. The new rules make import companies responsible for monitoring and policing imported foods. In addition, new safety standards will now be applied to American-grown produce.

The F.D.A. cannot control or regulate safety standards for farms in foreign countries, but the new laws do allow the agency to require that food importers “verify that their foreign suppliers are making and growing food that meets American safety standards,” by establishing a third-party auditor system. Although some consumer advocates caution that import companies will have too much discretion, federal officials maintain that the standard for food safety will be brought under federal oversight.

As the American food supply has come to rely more on imported foods, the old food-safety program has become seriously outdated and insufficient. “In 2013, the Department of Agriculture estimated that imported food accounted for 19 percent of the American food supply, including 52 percent of the fresh fruits and 22 percent of the fresh vegetables. Given these changes, the old food-safety system was outdated, officials said. The F.D.A. tries to keep tabs on imports, but it inspects only 1 to 2 percent of imports at American ports and borders.”

For the first time, food importers become subject to F.D.A. regulation. Food safety has become a critical public health issue. “One in every six Americans becomes ill from eating contaminated food each year, according to the F.D.A.. About 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die.”

Accompanying the new regulations for imported foods is a new produce rule for U.S. farms. New standards for growing, harvesting, packing and storing produce includes requirements for employee health and hygiene, water quality, and manure and compost use. This rule means "for the first time, we have nationwide enforceable safety standards for fruits and vegetables consumed raw."

According to the F.D.A., "Under the new rules, importers will have the obligation to verify they are meeting U.S. standards. This is a fundamental paradigm shift from the F.D.A. detecting and responding to problems with imported foods to industry being responsible for preventing them."

I represent victims of food poisoning nationwide, including recent victims of the Fig & Olive outbreak. I am keenly aware of the need for companies to employ more robust procedures to be sure consumers are protected from the serious illnesses that are brought about by tainted food. Safety must come first and above profits.

About the author:

Mr. Zambri is a board-certified civil trial attorney by the National Board of Trial Advocates and a Past-President of the Trial Lawyers Association of Metropolitan Washington, D.C. The association recently named him "Trial Lawyer of the Year". Super Lawyers recently named him among the "Top Ten" lawyers in the Metro Area (out of more than 80,000 attorneys). He has been rated by Washingtonian magazine as a "Big Gun" and among the "top 100″ lawyers in the entire metropolitan area. The magazine also describes him as "one of Washington's best-most honest and effective lawyers" who specializes in personal injury matters, including automobile accident claims, premises liability, product liability, medical malpractice, and work-accident claims. He has successfully litigated multiple cases against truck and bus companies, the Washington Metropolitan Area transit Authority, and other automobile owners. His law firm, in fact, has obtained the largest settlement ever in a personal injury case involving WMATA. Mr. Zambri has also been acknowledged as one of "The Best Lawyers in America" by Best Lawyers (2014 edition) and has been repeatedly named a "Super Lawyer" by Super Lawyer magazine (2014) - national publications that honor the top lawyers in America.

If you have any questions about your legal rights, please email Mr. Zambri at szambri@reganfirm.com or call him at 202-822-1899.

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