FDA Sued Over Alleged Delays Implementing Food Rules

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration was sued over claims that it has failed to enact regulations intended to help prevent outbreaks of food-borne illnesses 18 months after a safety law was signed.

The government missed a January deadline for setting standards for the safe production and harvesting of fruits and vegetables and was supposed to establish regulations requiring food shippers to use sanitary practices by July, lawyers for the Center for Food Safety and the Center for Environmental Health said in a complaint filed yesterday in federal court in San Francisco.

The groups’ lawsuit claims the government has failed to promulgate seven major food safety regulations required by the Food Safety and Modernization Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama in January 2011.

The act is supposed to better protect public health, including guarding against outbreaks of illnesses by strengthening the food safety system, lawyers for the groups said in the complaint. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that every year, as a result of food-borne diseases, 48 million people -- one in six Americans -- get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die, according to the complaint.

The lawsuit seeks a court order requiring the FDA to implement the regulations. Curtis Allen, an FDA spokesman, said in an e-mail that the agency can’t comment on pending litigation.

The case is Center for Food Safety v. Hamburg, 12-4529, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

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