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FDA releases new food safety rules aimed at reducing illness

Above: Shelves sit empty of Blue Bell ice cream at a grocery store in Dallas after Texas-based Blue Bell Creameries issued a voluntary recall for all of its products on the market after two samples of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream tested positive for Listeriosis. (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)

First peanut products, then spinach, then ice cream, and now cucumbers.

Following a year that saw widespread recalls of food due to foodborne illness outbreaks, the FDA is making sweeping changes to the way food manufacturers ensure their products are safe.

The new rules– two of the seven expected as part of the Food Safety Modernization Act — will hold imported foods to the same standards as American-made and require all manufacturers to outline the contamination risks they could face and what they plan to do to combat them.

All food companies will be required to write detailed safety plans, the agency announced Tuesday.

“Today’s announcement will ensure that food companies are taking action and working with the FDA to prevent hazards to customers on the front end, rather than waiting to act until an outbreak has occurred,” the FDA said in a statement.

The Food Safety Modernization Act became law in 2011 with the express goal of making the FDA’s response to outbreaks preventative, rather than reactive.

Companies with fewer than 500 employees will have two years to comply, while the rest of the industry will have one, according to The Hill. Makers of animal food are also included.

The rest of the FDA’s new food safety rules are expected to be finalized in 2016.

An estimated 1 in 6 Americans get sick each year from foodborne diseases, according to recent data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Three-thousand of them die each year.