Foodborne illness affects approximately forty-eight million Americans per year, according to recent data from the CDC. Consumers have heard news stories warning of nationwide food recalls. What additional steps can be taken to ensure food safety? The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act was designed to address that question. Included in Section 211 of that Act are new provisions related to a Reportable Food Registry system (RFR) for increasing the speed of investigation and action to address foodborne illness (this is separate from FDA's recall program). Although FDA already had a public meeting in June 2011, the agency only received three comments, and believes it needs further input. So, on March 26, 2014, FDA published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) seeking public comment through June 9, 2014.
The proposal may require submission to FDA by a responsible party through the RFR of consumer-oriented information regarding a reportable food (information necessary to accurately identify whether a consumer possesses a reportable food) within twenty-four hours of discovery of an event. A "responsible party" is the person that submits a food facility registration related to the reportable food. A public health official may also submit a report, but not consumers. FDA would assess the information and publish a standardized one-page summary on its website for purposes of notifying consumers. FDA may require the responsible party to notify or provide contact information for upstream and downstream supply chain entities. Grocery stores that sold the reportable food would be required to prominently display that information within twenty-four hours of the FDA's website posting, and for a period of 14 days. FDA is required to develop a list of acceptable conspicuous locations and manners for grocery stores to post the information.
"Consumer-oriented information" would include a description of the reportable food, production identification codes for the reportable food, contact information, and any other information for the consumer to identify the reportable food. "Reportable foods" are those "for which there is a reasonable probability that use of, or exposure to, such food will cause serious adverse health consequences or death to humans or animals." The new provisions will also not apply to fruits and vegetables.