This Week in FDA Regulation: Food, Chicken, and Turtles

By William Peacock, Esq. on August 01, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Free range chicken. If you've ever wondered what the limits of "free range" are (and really, who hasn't), the Food and Drug Administration is about to make that question infinitely more complicated. If your chicken, vegetables, fruit, or other food is imported, they've got a rule or two for you too. And finally, for all you turtle lovers, the mass executions will stop.

Are you a GC in the food services industry? Just curious? Intrigued yet? For the latest in FDA regulations, read on:

Not So Free Range

In order for a chicken to qualify as "free range," the USDA National Organic Program regulations require that the birds have year-round access to the outdoors. However, nature is a very dirty place. Rats, wild birds, and other fine creatures mingle with the free-roaming hens and the risk of exposure to salmonella increases.

The solution? Fence in, and possibly put a roof over, your free range chickens. Yeah. The Daily Meal is as confused by that paradox as we are.

Privatizing Import Inspections

Here in the states, the FDA inspects food production facilities. Alas, according to Reuters, we import about 15 percent of our food supply. Who inspects that food? It varies by country, and when it arrives on shore, the FDA has inspectors at the border facilities that are only able to check about two percent of the incoming shipments.

Recent contaminated food shipments have resulted in Hepatitis A-laced pomegranates and salmonella-tainted cucumbers, reports Reuters.

Problem, meet solution. The FDA proposes two rules to cure the gaping inspection hole. The rules would require private companies to identify likely contamination scenarios, such as salmonella in peanuts, and to oversee their foreign suppliers to prevent contamination. Auditors would check the records of the companies to ensure that the oversight is done properly.

The rules will be open to public comments for 120 days. Implementation could take up to three years.

Ending Turtle Massacres

Fun fact: turtle shells tend to be covered in salmonella. That is precisely why it is illegal to import or sell turtles with shells shorter than four inches. What happens when the FDA seizes tiny turtles and their eggs?

They slaughter them. All of 'em.

Feeling merciful, and perhaps a bit guilty, the FDA has proposed an amendment to the regulation that will either raise the turtles until they are bigger than four inches, donate them to science (yay, animal testing!), or hand them off to educational or exhibitional entities, reports Courthouse News Service. The sale of tiny turtles will continue to be illegal, however, and punishable by a fine of up to $1,000, a one year prison term, or both.

We hope you feel refreshed, and more knowledgeable about the latest from the FDA. Even if you don't have much of an appetite for lunch anymore ...

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