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NYS First in Nation to Reach Food Safety Milestone

Governor David A. Paterson today announced that New York is the first state in the nation to meet, and in many areas exceed, nationally recognized food protection program standards set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). New York was among five states asked by the federal government to pilot a new federal program designed to achieve uniformity and consistency between state and federal regulatory agencies for manufactured foods.

The Manufactured Food Regulatory Program Standards were initiated by FDA to bring about the adoption of more uniform, equivalent, and high quality regulatory programs by state and federal government agencies responsible for regulating facilities that manufacture, process, pack, or hold food under FDA’s jurisdiction.

“Safeguarding our food supply is one of the most basic and important responsibilities government has,” said Governor Paterson. “By completing this program before any other state in the country, it proves that New York’s standards are on par with those at the federal level, and in some instances, exceed them. The residents of New York State should feel comfortable knowing that we have such a capable food safety unit here that works as proactively and diligently as they do to protect them.”

Without uniform standards, differing food oversight and regulatory activities between state and the federal government can lead to inconsistencies that may jeopardize food safety. The adoption of standardized regulations and compliance with those regulatory programs will establish a uniform basis for measuring and improving the performance of manufactured food regulation and help authorities reduce potential illness hazards – like e-coli or botulism – in food facilities.

New York did not have to adopt any new food safety regulations in order to meet FDA’s Manufactured Food Regulatory Program Standards. In some instances, New York’s standards exceeded those of the federal government. For example, New York’s smoked fish regulations identify the specific food safety critical control points to be followed by smoked fish manufacturers while the federal rule is non-specific. New York also has stricter temperature requirements for reduced oxygen packaged processed fish which has been implicated in botulism outbreaks in the past.

The FDA regulates about 80 percent of the U.S. food supply, which includes food for humans and animals, except meat products, poultry products, and egg products, which are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets regulates all food for humans and animals sold retail and wholesale in New York State. Its Division of Food Safety and Inspection conducted over 42,000 food safety inspections last year. As a result of those inspections, followed by analysis at the New York State Food Laboratory, 311 food recalls were initiated and 450,000 pounds of adulterated food was seized.

New York State Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker said: “This is great news for New Yorkers who rely on our state inspection staff to ensure that their food supply is safe and wholesome. This program will help garner greater consumer confidence in our food supply by ensuring consistent protocols and common practices are utilized by all. I want to personally thank our Division of Food Safety and Inspection personnel for leading the country in this important matter.”

The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets’ Division of Food Safety and Inspection Director Joseph Corby, who has more than 37 years in food safety enforcement said: “By achieving uniformity between the states and federal government, our ability to coordinate and then swiftly and effectively address food safety concerns is greatly enhanced. Our team here in New York prides itself on its diligence in safeguarding the public from potential food-borne illnesses and these uniform standards will enable us to improve our performance and work more cooperatively with the FDA in the future.”

Also piloted in Missouri, North Carolina, Oregon and Wisconsin, New York is the first state to complete the FDA’s standards, which define best practices for critical elements of state food safety programs. Those elements include: regulations, employee training, inspections, quality assurance, food-borne illness and incident investigations, enforcement actions, education and outreach, resource management, laboratory resources, and program assessment.

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