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New Food Safety Regulations

Parents of children who died from drinking contaminated juice or eating unsafe spinach rallied lawmakers with horrifying stories. Concerns about bioterrorism also played a role. The new rules are meant, in part, to make the nation’s food supply less susceptible to tampering.

The century-old FDA has ample experience breaking up unsafe pharmaceutical factories and food processors but is still finding its way around family farms. At a recent congressional hearing, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) seized on one draft set of rules in which the FDA declared kale is “never consumed raw.”

“I was going to offer to make a kale salad for you,” she said to Michael Taylor, a deputy commissioner. “It causes you to wonder if those who are writing these rules have ever set foot on a farm.”

Over the summer, the owner of the last working farm in Akron, Ohio, which had been supplying produce to locals for 117 years, said he was throwing in the towel and blamed the FDA’s new rules. Don Bessemer told the Akron Beacon Journal that he was up for fighting pests and even drought, but not bureaucrats. Thirty workers lost jobs.

Federal regulators have been scrambling to find the right balance ever since the draft rules set off controversy. The FDA has backed away from some of its positions, and Taylor points out that thousands of the smallest farms would be exempt from new inspections under an agreement negotiated in Congress.

“This is the first time that the FDA will have regulated produce safety on the farm,” he said in an interview.


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