The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued two decisions allowing the sale of ethanol blends above 10 percent, referred to as E15, for use in model year 2001 and newer vehicles. Both decisions have been challenged in court, and the agency has filed a response to a motion filed by food industry interests asking the court to accelerate the briefing schedule. GMA v. EPA, No. 10-1380 (D.D.C., opposition filed February 17, 2011). EPA asked the court considering the actions to instead adopt a consolidated briefing schedule that allows both decisions to be addressed, in the interest of preserving judicial resources. In a footnote, EPA suggests that the food industry parties may lack standing to challenge the agency’s E15 waiver. Apparently, EPA regulations give “only fuel and fuel additive manufacturers” the ability to register E15, and they are already represented in a challenge to EPA’s action. EPA also notes, “given that several steps…

The Center for Food Safety has returned to a federal court in California charging the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) with violations of the law in partially deregulating genetically engineered (GE) sugar beets. Center for Food Safety v. Vilsack, No. 11-0831 (N.D. Cal., filed February 23, 2011). Details about the agency’s action are included in Issue 381 of this Update. Seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, the group and several other organizations concerned about the safety of GE crops and their alleged potential to contaminate conventional and organic crops, challenge the February 4, 2011, APHIS decision to approve an environmental assessment prepared in connection with the agency’s decision to issue an interim partial deregulation of Roundup Ready® sugar beets. According to the complaint, “The partial deregulation decision purports to allow planting and use of [GE sugar beets] pending the completion by APHIS of an…

The U.K. Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) has issued a February 25, 2011, Health and Iron Report recommending that the general population eat no more than 500 grams of red and processed meat per week, or 70 grams per day. At the request of the Committee on Medical Aspects of Food and Nutrition Policy, which in 1998 linked red and processed meat to colorectal cancer risk, SACN undertook “a comprehensive review of the role of iron in human nutrition,” including “potential adverse effects both of iron deficiency and of iron excess.” It ultimately concurred with the earlier findings that “high consumers of red and processed meat should consider reducing their intakes because of possible links with a risk of colorectal cancer.” SACN particularly noted that adults consuming more than 90 grams of red and processed meat per day “should consider reducing their intakes” to reflect the population average of…

The United Kingdom’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) has announced that it is commissioning research aimed at modernizing official controls on meat. Noting that “the driving force” behind the Future Meat Controls Research Programme is to “improve public health by adopting a more risk- and evidence-based approach to meat production,” FSA said four areas of research will be part of the evidence to support regulatory change. Areas of research needed are (i) “an evaluation of food chain information, and collection and communication of inspection results for all species”; (ii) “trialling the visual inspection for fatting pigs from non-controlled housing conditions”; (iii) “a qualitative risk assessment of visual inspection of red meat and farmed/wild large game (all ages and species other than swine)”; and (iv) “trialling the use of a plant inspection assistant in approved game handling establishments (small and large wild game).” FSA requests proposals by April 6, 2011.

European Union (EU) member states have reportedly endorsed a draft regulation aiming to “harmonize the implementation of the zero tolerance policy on non-authorized genetically modified (GM) material in feed.” According to a February 23, 2011, Europa press release, the proposal put forth by the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCoFCAH) would allow imported feed to contain up to 0.1 percent unauthorized GM seed, a limit that reflects the lowest level of GM presence considered by the EU GMO Reference Laboratory when validating detection methods. If adopted by the European Parliament and the Council in the next three months, the draft regulation would apply only to GM feed material “authorized for commercialization in a third country and for which an authorization procedure is pending in the EU or of which the EU authorization has expired.” Under these rules, “feed will be considered non-compliant with EU legislation when…

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently announced that agency analysts turned to next-generation sequencing to test samples collected during a Salmonella outbreak that purportedly sickened nearly 300 people from 44 states and the District of Columbia. The 2009 2010 outbreak was linked to the spice rub used on certain salamis and was ultimately traced to a single food facility. According to FDA, “The findings supported the information gathered in the field phase of the investigation and suggest an important role for this novel tool in augmenting future outbreak investigations.” See FDA Press Release, February 24, 2011.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration, the Office of the Under Secretary for Food Safety, and the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition have announced a March 16, 2011, public meeting in College Park, Maryland, to provide information and receive public comments on draft U.S. positions to be discussed at the 31st session of the Codex Committee on Contaminants on Fish and Fishery Products (CCFFP) on April 11-16 in Tromso, Norway. CCFFP “is responsible for elaborating worldwide standards for fresh, frozen (including quick frozen) or otherwise processed fish, crustaceans, and mollusks.” Agenda items include proposed draft standards for fish sauce, smoked fish, smoke-flavored fish, and smoke dried fish; proposed draft codes of practice for fish and fishery products and scallop-meat processing; proposed methods for determining biotoxins in raw and live bivalve mollusks; and proposed revisions to food-additive standards for fish and fishery products. See Federal…

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has issued a proposed rule that would address a 2008 Farm Bill mandate making catfish an amenable species under the Federal Meat Inspection Act and therefore requiring all domestic and imported catfish to undergo FSIS inspection. According to a February 18, 2011, press release, FSIS has offered two definitions for “catfish,” one limited to all species in the family Ictaluridae and a broader one that covers all species in the order Siluriformes, which includes Ictaluridae, Pangasiidae and Clariidae, the three families “typically found in human food channels.” The proposed rule would also require, among other provisions, that all catfish “produced in or imported to the United States” bear an FSIS inspection mark or “a mark of inspection from the country from which it was exported.” In addition, the agency has suggested plans for (i) inspecting catfish farms, (ii)…

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has requested that Attorney General Eric Holder provide an update on the Justice Department’s criminal investigation into the 2009 Salmonella outbreak involving contaminated peanuts from Peanut Corp. of America (PCA) facilities. As Leahy reminds Holder in his February 22, 2011, letter, the outbreak was linked to the deaths of nine people and purportedly sickened more than 700 others. He also cites his previous request that the department conduct “a full criminal investigation into this matter.” PCA declared bankruptcy in 2009, and neither its former CEO nor other executives have been charged to date. According to Leahy, “Given the PCA investigation, the pistachio recall, and last summer’s salmonella outbreak from eggs, my concerns remain that wrongdoers are disregarding the health and safety of American consumers by choosing to sell contaminated products. I hope that there has been a thorough criminal investigation into PCA’s conduct at the least,…

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), an organization devoted to preventive medicine, a vegan diet and animal rights, has sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), claiming the agencies used deliberately obscure language in their 2010 Dietary Guidelines regarding the foods consumers should avoid. While the guidelines specifically call for increased consumption of vegetables, fruits and whole grains, PCRM contends that the agencies “hide the food Americans should eat less of. The Guidelines use biochemical terms, such as ‘saturated fat’ and ‘cholesterol’ instead of specific food terms ‘meat’ and ‘cheese.’” According to PCRM, the guidelines are written this way due to “the USDA’s close ties to the meat and dairy industries, including fast-food companies such as McDonald’s.” The organization also apparently blames USDA’s dual mission of giving nutritional advice to Americans and promoting American agricultural products for the use of language…

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