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New Rules Aim to Improve Food Safety in US

From VOA Learning English, we bring you news about agriculture, in Special English. Each year, bad food sickens about one in six Americans. But, proposed new rules raise hopes to improve food safety.

Officials say the changes could prevent more than 1 million cases of food-related illnesses each year.The new rules were proposed recently, exactly two years after President Obama signed the Food Safety Modernization Act. The rules are the first step in putting that law into effect. They represent the biggest changes in food safety since the 1930s.

The new law makes the Food and Drug Administration responsible for preventing foodborne illnesses. Experts say this is a change in the way that the FDA has dealt with disease outbreaks in the past. Congress passed the law after a series of outbreaks that were linked to spinach, peanut butter and other foods.

The agency is proposing to require food manufacturers to show that they have identified where contamination is most likely to happen. Manufacturers would also have to show that they have taken steps to prevent problems. The proposed rules also deal with safety in growing and harvesting fruits and vegetables. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that establishing all of the provisions of the law will cost the government $1.4 billion.

The Grocery Manufacturers of America, an industry group, has not released an estimate of what it will cost producers. But FDA Deputy Commissioner Michael Taylor says the new rules are worth the cost. He says there should be reductions in illness and disruptions in the food supply, and increases in buyer confidence. He says, when these issues are considered, the benefits outweigh the costs of the new law.

For VOA Learning English, I'm Alex Villarreal . (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 22Jan2013)