President Obama signed the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) into law in January 2011, but four of the key regulations mandated by the law have been under review at the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB)'s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs for more than eight months—what’s being described as an unusually long delay for measures backed by industry and consumer groups alike.

The FDA has now failed to promulgate seven major food-safety regulations, according to a complaint filed in federal court Aug. 30 by the Center for Food Safety and the Center for Environmental Health.

The suit seeks a court order that would require the FDA to enact FSMA regulations by a court-imposed deadline, which would prevent the OMB from delaying implementation any further with its lengthy review of the regulations.

The suit was filed just months before the presidential election, which some stakeholders think could be a reason to hold back the rules, as they could be construed as job-killing regulations during a difficult economic recovery. "If the Obama administration has lost the political will to make FSMA a reality, we're here to help them find it," states Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety. "It's a disgrace that a crucial, lifesaving law sits idle while the bureaucracies of FDA and OMB grind along without a hint of results. The American people shouldn't have to wait another second for safer food policies that are already law."

The rules under review, including preventative controls for food facilities, preventive controls for animal feed facilities, the foreign supplier verification program and produce safety regulations, were supposed to be the key to shifting the U.S. food-safety system from primarily reactive to prevention-focused. Each of these measures should have either been in the rulemaking process or have been implemented by now and, the complaint points out, there are at least nine more FSMA deadlines coming up in early 2013.