FDA, OMB seek more time for food safety rules

Looks like the wait may last a little ... or a lot ... longer.

Tom Karst, national editor at The Packer trade publication, reports that the Food and Drug Administration wants more time to finish up the Food Safety Modernization Act rules. Remember, these proposed rules have been sitting inside the White House Office of Management and Budget for more than a year.

The request came as part of a late November motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed against the FDA and the Office of Management and Budget by the Center for Food Safety and the Center for Environmental Health seeking prompt FDA implementation of food safety rules.

 “FDA’s decisions regarding enforcement actions are not subject to judicial review, and the defendants have not, as a matter of law, unreasonably delayed the adoption of regulations implementing FSMA,” government lawyers argued in the motion.

Karst writes:

(Produce) industry leaders have also been impatient with lack of movement by OMB on the food safety regulations.

Some have speculated the proposed rules were slowed by election-year politics. That reason no longer applies after the November election, but the rules continue to languish at OMB.

Now, Tom O’Brien, Washington, D.C.-based representative for the Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association, said the Office of Management and Budget website shows the FDA in late November submitted the proposed regulation on accreditation of third parties to conduct food safety audits and for other purposes to the Office of Management and Budget.

“I don’t know if that review (by OMB) will take place in time for it to come out with the other (food safety regulations), but we don’t know when the others are coming out and it may be possible,” he said.

David Gombas, senior vice president of food safety and technology for Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association, said Dec. 18 that the delay has become the number one question in the industry.

“A year is way too long to wait to see what these rules say,” Gombas said. “They are just proposed rules, so let’s get them out there and take a look at them already.”

Even knowing the reason for the long delay would be helpful, Gombas said.

In their lawsuit against the FDA and OMB, the Center for Food Safety and the Center for Environmental Health said the delay in the regulations is “unlawful” and they’re seeking a a court order that would require FDA to enact FSMA regulations by a court-imposed deadline and would prevent the OMB from delaying FDA’s compliance with that deadline.