THE BRONX - The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed the most stringent food safety rules in decades.

The proposal requires farmers and food companies to be more vigilant in the wake of deadly, food-related outbreaks. The farmers and food companies, domestic and foreign, will develop plans to prevent their foods from causing food-borne illnesses and to correct any problems that do arise.

The rules would also set standards for the safe production and harvesting of fruit and vegetables, like making sure workers wash their hands. The proposal focuses on high-risk areas like agricultural water, equipment and keeping domesticated and wild animals out of fields.

Food-borne illnesses strike one in six Americans every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The FDA says the rules build on existing voluntary industry guidelines. The rules will not be final until some time after the four-month period allowed for public comment.