FDA proposes new rules on imported food - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

FDA proposes new rules on imported food

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The government wants to make sure imported produce, cheese and other foods that end up on our tables are safe to eat.

"New rules that will increase the accountability of people that are manufacturing food or bringing food into this country and that will enable us to more closely monitor what's going on in the facilities," said Dr. Margaret Hamburg, the commissioner of the FDA.

More than 150 countries import food into the U.S., and only 2 percent of that food is inspected at our ports and border. Under the new FDA proposal, importers would have to verify that their suppliers are meeting the same food safety standards that are required in the U.S. The new measures would also improve food safety audits abroad. It's part of a sweeping food safety law Congress passed 2.5 years ago.

Americans are on a steady diet of produce from other countries. Estimates show half of our fruits and 20 percent of our vegetables are imported. Food-related illnesses kill about 3,000 people every year in the U.S., and hospitalize about 130,000 others.

Federal health officials are currently investigating a mysterious stomach bug that has sickened more than 275 people in seven states, including New Jersey. That bug has been linked to imported fresh fruit in past outbreaks.

"We need a food safety system that focuses on prevention and identifying the points of vulnerability wherever they are in the food chain and in the manufacturing process," Hamburg said.

Consumers like Rose Gourhan are glad the FDA is getting involved.

"We need to look at the food and where it's coming from and what's on it because it's going into our bodies," Gourhan said.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association says the proposed rules help protect food safety and it looks forward to working with the FDA.

The new rules could help prevent outbreaks like a recent one involving pomegranate seeds from Turkey, that made 153 people sick in nine states.

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