New FDA Regulations Aim to Stop Foreign Contamination

The FDA announced two new regulations that will increase the safety standard for imported food Friday.

(Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said the new rules were "a major step forward" for securing food safety.

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced two new regulations for imported food Friday that the federal agency says will help prevent food-borne illnesses.

The rules will require importers to verify that their suppliers are meeting U.S. food safety requirements and will create a system for certifying third-party auditors.

The measures will be implemented though the FDA's Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which aims to shift focus from contamination response to prevention.

FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said the new rules were "a major step forward" for securing food safety.

"Without question, it's important that food imported into the U.S. must meet the same level of public health protection as food produced domestically and FSMA allows us to do just that," Hamburg said in a conference call.

[READ: FDA Proposes Rules for Safer Imported Foods]

Imported food accounts for 15 percent of America's food supply, according to the FDA, and comes from 150 different countries.

Some feel these new rules were needed sooner. Hundreds of petitions on websites like Change.org called for greater safety measures with food. Petitions like "Kraft: Stop Using Dangerous Food Dyes in Our Mac & Cheese," "Gatorade: Don't put flame retardant chemicals in sports drinks!," "Ask Trader Joe's for meat without drugs" and "Progresso: Stop poisoning people with your soup!" racked up millions of signatures within the last year.

Many of the petitions for food safety are aimed at the FDA.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1-in-6 Americans get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die of food-borne diseases each year.

The FDA will have a 120-day comment period for these new rules that will allow Americans to voice their opinion on food safety issues.

"We really need to do more than react," Hamburg said. "Preventing problems before they cause harm is not only common sense, it's the key to food safety in the 21st century."

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