Nightly News   |  July 26, 2013

FDA proposes rules to improve safety of food produced abroad

Thousands die every year from food-related illnesses, but the FDA’s new proposed rules for oversight of imported food would require the importers to meet certain standards before food comes into the U.S. NBC’s Dr. Nancy Snyderman reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> good evening. the federal government did something today that just might make life better and safer in american homes. they are reacting to outbreaks of food-borne illnesses so the government is proposing sweeping new rules to make sure food sold and consumed in this country is safer by a lot. along the way we have learned fully 70% of the fresh fruits and vegetables here in the u.s. are imported from other countries. only 2% of it inspected before we buy it. it's where we begin tonight with our chief medical editor dr. nancy snyderman . good evening.

>> good evening, brian. over 3,000 people die every year in this country from food-related illnesses. today's measures aim to reduce the risks posed by the complexity of a global food system. paul littlejohn of suburban ft. worth blames grapes for making him so sick he had to go to his doctor.

>> he said, yeah, there is an intestinal bug going around.

>> reporter: that intestinal bug is cyclospora, found on fruits and vegetables and the latest example of health concerns in america's food supply . the centers for disease control is investigating two outbreaks of food-borne illness. a hepatitis a outbreak infected more than 150 americans across nine states has been tied to pomegranate seeds from turkey. since 2011 eight of the last 19 outbreaks were from food brought from 150 countries around the world.

>> everybody wants a safer food supply . everybody benefits. at the end of the day we see this as win-win-win.

>> reporter: the new rules ensure that food produced abroad is subject to the same safety standards as food produced domestically. it's been more than two years since president obama signeded food safety legislation. critics wonder why it's taken b so long.

>> proposed rules aren't going to make us safer. it is critically important they move them to completion as soon as possible.

>> reporter: paul caswalking down the grocery aisle you can't miss vast amounts of food from other countries. 50% of fruit, 20% of eventuvegetables and 80% of seafood is from abroad. today's announcement is a big step forward in making sure that food that is good for you is also safe.

>> for fruits and vegetables of the season, the greatest likelihood is it's grown in america. if you want something out of season, try the frozen food department.

>> if you are not sure, read your labels carefully. look at the down oh tcountry of origin. it's always on the package. if you're not sure, pass. wash your hands and then wash fruits and vegetables carefully. today, brian, i have to say every trade organization representing the food industry applauded the move from the fda and said it is about time.

>> impactful news about frozen food , too.