OSHA Issues New Whistleblower Protections for Food Industry Workers

In 2011, President Obama signed the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). It was believed to be the most sweeping reform of the nation’s food safety laws in nearly a century. What received less attention of the law’s whistleblower provision. Also known as Section 402, this provision amends the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act to provide “protection to employees against retaliation by an entity engaged in the manufacture, processing, packing, transporting, distribution, reception, holding, or importation of food” for reporting a violation of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act or refusing to participate in activities the worker “reasonably” believes is a violation.

OSHA has issued a final rule on the whistleblower provision, outlining the agency’s procedures for handling FSMA-related complaints of employers retaliating against employees who have reported food safety concerns. The provision is the first of its kind in the food-industry to protect whistleblowers.

“Whistleblower protection creates a safe channel for the free flow of information from the front lines where food safety breakdowns occur to all of society’s stakeholders who should be warned about them. The FSMA whistleblower provision reflects the current gold standard for free speech rights in the private sector. It was a landmark breakthrough for food safety.

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