The Food and Drug Administration should appeal a court ruling that said the agency has broken the law by its slow pace in issuing regulations required by the Food Safety Modernization Act, according to the United Fresh Produce Association.

In a lawsuit brought by the Center for Food Safety and the Center for Environmental Health against the FDA last fall, the consumer group said the agency failed to enact food safety regulations within the 18 months mandated after passage of the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act.

U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton on April 22 ordered the FDA to work with the plaintiffs to establish a new timetable for food safety regulations. She ordered FDA and the groups to meet and propose new deadlines by May 20.

“Today is good day for food safety and for consumers,” Center for Food Safety senior attorney George Kimbrell said in a news release. “Every day without the FSMA regulations is another day where consumers are at unnecessary risk.”

FDA shouldn’t be rushed, United Fresh saysThe FDA had not indicated whether it will appeal the judge’s ruling as of April 24, but Ray Gilmer, vice president of issues management and communication for the United Fresh Produce Association ,said he would be surprised if the agency didn’t appeal.

“We think this is something that FDA is likely to appeal,” Gilmer said.

He said the FDA recently indicated the agency would extend the comment period for the produce safety rule into September.

“That (comment period extension) is a result of all the feedback they have gotten on the complexity and technical challenges of meeting the proposed regulations as they stand now,” he said.