September 10, 2015 / 2:37 PM / 4 years ago

U.S. FDA finalizes two rules aimed at preventing food hazards

A view shows the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland August 14, 2012. REUTERS/Jason Reed

(Reuters) - The U.S. Food and Drug Administration finalized two rules on Thursday requiring human and animal food companies to identify possible food safety hazards and outline steps to prevent or minimize them.

The rules are the first of seven proposed following the passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act. The Act was signed into law in January 2011 and represents the most sweeping reform of food safety laws in more than 70 years.

The law is designed gives the FDA greater power to inspect food facilities and farms with the aim of preventing foodborne illnesses instead of reacting after they have occurred.(1.usa.gov/1VPTxnb).

One in six Americans are sickened every year from food-borne diseases, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die each year.

The first two rules focus on food manufacturing processes. They require companies to develop written food safety plans that indicate potential hazards that could affect the safety of their products and outline plans to prevent or minimize them.

The remaining five rules are expected to be finalized in 2016. They include a proposal that would place greater requirements on importers to verify the safety of the products they import.

The United States imports about 15 percent of its food supply. That figure is far higher for certain sectors, including seafood, fruits and vegetables and spices.

As recently as this week the CDC reported two deaths and 70 hospitalizations from salmonella linked with cucumbers imported from Mexico.

Reporting by Toni Clarke in Washington and Amrutha Penumudi in Bengaluru; Editing by Grant McCool

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