Source: Bloomberg News

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is violating food-safety law by delaying regulations intended to help prevent outbreaks of food-borne illnesses, a federal judge ruled.

U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton in Oakland, California, said the agency has “admittedly failed to comply with the mandatory rule-making schedule” of the Food Safety and Modernization Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama in January 2011. The FDA had 18 months to issue new regulations. The agency said the “aggressive timelines” have “proven to be unachievable,” Hamilton said in a ruling.

“Endless delay does not serve any purpose of the FMSA,” she said. She ordered the FDA to come up with proposed deadlines for regulations by May 20.

The food modernization act is supposed to better protect public health, including guarding against outbreaks of illnesses by strengthening the food safety system, the Center for Food Safety said in a complaint filed in August.

Shelly Burgess, an FDA spokeswoman, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment on the ruling.

The case is Center for Food Safety v. Hamburg, 4:12-cv-04529, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (Oakland).