U.S. Aims to Avoid Another Blue Bell With New Food Safety Rules

By Anna Edney | September 11, 2015

Sweeping new rules meant to curtail foodborne illnesses that sicken one in six Americans each year will require food companies to create and follow new preventive safety measures, U.S. regulators announced Thursday.

The rules require food companies to develop written safety plans to indicate possible problems and outline steps to prevent them. The foodmakers will also be responsible for monitoring their facilities, identifying potential hazards and preventing them, the Food and Drug Administration said in a statement.

The agency is trying to cut down on outbreaks like the one linked to Blue Bell Creameries Inc. this year. The company had to recall all its products after the bacteria Listeria was found in its ice cream and linked to at least three deaths. Blue Bell has since resumed limited production.

The rules are the first two of seven the FDA is required to develop under the Food Safety Modernization Act signed in 2011, prompted in part by recalls of tainted cookie dough, spinach and peanuts over the last decade.

The FDA singled out Blue Bell in a blog post in May, saying the rules were nearing completion two years after they were originally proposed. The 2011 law was “the most sweeping regulatory overhaul in the agency’s history,” the FDA said at the time.

The rules also apply to animal food facilities.

The FDA also plans to release rules later this year that will create safeguards for farms to prevent illness and enhance agency oversight of imported foods.

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