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The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Food Safety and the Agricultural Marketing Service have announced a January 13, 2010, public meeting in Washington, D.C., to provide information and receive comments on draft U.S. positions to be discussed at the 9th Session of the Codex Committee on Milk and Milk Products (CCMMP) February 1-5 in Auckland, New Zealand. Agenda items include discussion of the draft amendment to the fermented milks standard, draft standard for processed cheese and purported inconsistencies in food additive provisions. See Federal Register, January 8, 2010.

According to a press report, three people from the Shaanxi Jinqiao Dairy Co. have been arrested and charged with producing and selling toxic food. They are apparently accused of selling more than five tons of milk powder laced with melamine to a food additive firm, which discovered the contamination. The tainted product was apparently recovered before reaching the marketplace. The detentions come a little more than a year after a nationwide scandal involving contaminated milk powder killed six children and sickened more than 300,000. The first civil trial to consider claims by parents of an injured child began in November 2009, but a second hearing in the matter has reportedly been delayed after the defendants demanded additional investigation into the cause of the child’s illness. See FoodNavigatorUSA.com, December 11, 2009.

Starting from the premise that consumer enjoyment of food is linked directly to its color, this article discusses the types of substances that have been used over the centuries to change the appearance of food products and how various governments have tried to regulate their use. The earliest food coloring regulations in the United States were developed under pressure by dairy producers who were able, at one time, to persuade the legislatures of five states to pass laws requiring that margarine be dyed pink to compromise its acceptability in the marketplace. The author traces the history of U.S. laws regulating color additives, noting how debate has raged over the application of strict standards that bar the use of substances with even a 1 in a billion cancer risk to applying what the Food and Drug Administration has championed and called de minimis exceptions that would allow the use of color…

USDA, the Food and Drug Administration and the Office of the Undersecretary for Food Safety have announced a February 10, 2009, public meeting to develop draft positions on agenda items for the 41st Session of the Codex Committee on Food Additives (CCFA) slated for March 16-20, 2009, in Shanghai, China. Part of the Codex Alimentarius Commission established in 1963 by the Food and Agriculture Organization and World Health Organization, CCFA (i) sets maximum levels for individual food additives; (ii) prepares priority lists of food additives for risk assessment by FAO and WHO experts; (iii) assigns functional classes to food additives; (iv) recommends specifications of identity and purity for food additives; (v) considers methods of analysis; and (vi) considers standards for related subjects such as food additive labeling. Specific agenda items for the session also include the Codex General Standard for Food Additives and the scope of its food categories. The…

According to animal studies conducted by Korean-based researchers, a common food additive used in processed meats and chicken, when fed to mice at levels roughly equivalent to human intake, increases lung tumor progression and growth. Hua Jin, et al., “High Dietary Inorganic Phosphate Increases Lung Tumorigenesis and Alters Akt Signaling,” American Journal of Respiratory & Critical Care Medicine (2009). While phosphate is apparently an essential nutrient, its increasing use in foods ranging from processed meats to cheeses, beverages and bakery goods has more than doubled human intake since the 1990s to some 1,000 mg daily. The scientists concluded that “careful regulation of dietary Pi may be critical for lung cancer prevention as well as treatment.” See Foodnavigator-usa.com, January 6, 2009.

The Chinese government has reportedly published its first official list of food additives that are prohibited in the domestic food supply. The list includes 17 acids, chemicals and other substances–such as formaldehyde, boric acid and sodium thiocyanate–used to improve the appearance, texture or longevity of food products. In addition, the country’s regulators have warned of raids on high-risk companies that have thus far failed to address their own safety problems. “These lists . . . cannot cover all problems linked to illegally adding substances in food and abusing additives in the industry,” stated the Chinese health ministry, which this month launched a food safety initiative to increase consumer confidence. See AFP, December 16, 2008.

According to the director of the FDA’s Office of Food Additive Safety, the agency will conduct additional analysis of the effects of bisphenol A on human health after its panel of independent science advisors called the agency’s position on its safety flawed. Laura Tarantino reportedly said that a lot of work remains; she would not indicate if the reassessment would take months or years. Among the issues the FDA is apparently exploring is the cumulative exposure people face over a lifetime given the chemical’s presence in food and beverage containers, plastic medical devices and coatings on gel tablets. A spokesperson for an environmental organization was quoted as saying, “More years of research by FDA to determine what thousands of scientists worldwide already know about the toxic chemical is a waste of time, taxpayer dollars, and will place millions of babies yet to be born at risk.” See The Washington Post,…

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