Farmers will now be required to make sure that their workers wash their hands, animals are kept out of fields, and irrigation water is clean, while food processing plants must improve their own sanitary conditions as a result of the FDA's new regulations aimed at reducing the number of food related illnesses.
According to the CDC, nearly 3,000 deaths occur every year from foodborne illnesses caused by listeria and samonella contamination. In fact, there were more that 400 illnesses and at least 7 deaths this past summer from bacteria found in canteloupes, mangoes, and cheese, etc. 42 cases of salonella poisoning were also traced to peanut butter products processed by Sundland Inc. after inspectors found contamination at the company's peanut processing plant in New Mexico.
In 2011, pools dirty water and old dirty processing equipment used at Jensen Farms in Colorado caused their canteloupes to become laced with listeria, resulting in 33 fatalities nationwide.
Proposals for the new rules came exactly two years to the day that President Obama's signed food safety legislation was first passed by Congress. It also marks the first time that the Food and Drug Administration has been granted any real authority to regulate food on farms.
However (to prevent protests from farmers) the new rules will only apply to produce such as lettuce and other leafy greens, as well as fruits generally eaten raw. Regulations for farms that grow items that will be canned and cooked will not change.
It should also be noted that it will be at least three more years before the new rules go into effect at the largest farms, and possibly longer still until they are implemented at smaller ones. In addition, putting the new safety measures into effect is expected to run about $30,000 a year for the large farms, while costs for the manufacturing industry (in total) could go as high as $500 million.