Today, President Obama signed the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (H.R. 2571), which contains landmark whistleblower protections for food safety employees.

Highlights of the Food Safety Whistleblower Provision:

  •   Covers all employers “engaged in the manufacture, processing, packing, transportation, distribution, reception, holding or importation of food;”
  • Allows workers have their case heard before a jury in federal court;
  • Provides for reinstatement, back pay and compensatory damages.

I issued the following statement in a press release by the National Whistleblowers Center:

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) will save American lives by protecting the millions of American workers who grow, process, store and deliver our food. Those workers now have modern whistleblower protections when they raise concerns about the safety of our food.

It is important for working people to know that all legal claims have time limits. The time limit under FMSA to file a written complaint with OSHA is 180 days. For raising concerns about toxic chemicals, though, the time limit is still 30 days. Whistleblowers usually get better results when they work with an attorney experienced in employment discrimination law.

The FMSA fills an important loophole left by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) in 2008. CPSIA does not cover food or medical devices. FMSA is the first law to provide whistleblower protections for workers covered by regulations of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). While tainted food kills about 5,000 Americans a year, medications may kill as many as 100,000 Americans every year. Yet Congress has not extended whistleblower coverage to workers who raise concerns about violations of the FDA’s pharmaceutical regulations.

It is time to end the patchwork protection of whistleblowers and pass a law that protects all workers when they raise concerns about health, safety, fraud, illegality, and dangers to the environment.

 Jason Zuckerman has written an excellent guide to the FSMA whistleblower protection. I previously commented on the FSMA and its place in our patchwork in this blog.