The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a new set of government safety rules on Thursday regarding the operations of food manufacturers after the latest outbreaks of food-borne illnesses linked to peanuts, cantaloupes, caramel apples and ice cream.

The new safety guidelines are part of fundamental changes within the FDA that are designed to prevent outbreaks of illnesses associated with food instead of simply reacting to such health issues.

According to estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), close to 48 million people living in the United States are sickened by contaminated foods each year. Around 3,000 of these individuals die because of complications from these spoiled foods.

FDA deputy commissioner for foods Michael Taylor said that the various food safety issues that they typically face are mainly preventable.

The FDA rules are aimed at providing safer food manufacturing conditions from the farms to the processing facilities.

Once implemented, the safety guidelines would require farmers to ensure that food crops are free from contamination often caused by animal waste and dirty water. They will also be required to build fences around their farms to keep out wild animals and to provide sufficient hand-washing facilities and restrooms for their workers in the field.

Food manufacturers would also be compelled to develop and record an extensive regimen for sanitation. These hygiene measures are meant to ensure that processing facilities are clean and free from pests, and for factory workers to wear appropriate gears when they are on the production floor.

In their investigations, FDA officials have discovered that outbreaks of life-threatening illnesses are often linked to the presence of unsanitary equipment in food manufacturing facilities.

Earlier this year, inspectors from the food and drug agency found that ice cream manufacturer Blue Bell Creameries violated several safety guidelines regarding the proper handling of their products.

Some of the violations cited in the official report include the use of unsanitary equipment, having inadequate storage for food and storing food at improper temperatures. The FDA inspectors also discovered that some of Blue Bell's employees do not practice the proper washing of hands.

Blue Bell products were linked to the death of three listeria-infected individuals.

Photo: James Palinsad | Flickr 

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