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The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of the Under Secretary for Food Safety, Food and Drug Administration, and Department of Health and Human Services have announced a February 23, 2015, public meeting in College Park, Maryland, to discuss draft positions for consideration at the 9th Session of the Codex Committee on Contaminants in Food in New Delhi, India on March 16-20. The lengthy agenda for the February meeting includes (i) maximum levels for lead in ready-to-drink fruit juices and nectars as well as in canned fruits and vegetables; (ii) proposed draft maximum levels for inorganic arsenic in husked rice; (iii) a proposed draft Code of Practice for the Prevention and Reduction of Arsenic Contamination in Rice; (iv) proposed draft maximum levels for cadmium in chocolate and cocoa-derived products; (v) a discussion paper about the feasibility of developing a Code of Practice for mycotoxins in spices; and (vi) a priority list…

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of the Under Secretary for Food Safety and the Food and Drug Administration have announced a February 17, 2015, public meeting in College Park, Maryland, to discuss draft U.S. positions for consideration during the 47th Session of the Codex Committee on Food Additives slated for March 23-27 in Xi’an, China. Agenda items at the February meeting include (i) provisions of food category 14.2.3 “grape wines” and its sub-categories; (ii) potentially replacing Note 161 with an alternative regarding provisions for sweeteners; (iii) the commercial use of potassium diacetate; and (iv) a proposal revising food category 01.1 “milk and dairy based drinks” and its sub-categories. See Federal Register, January 14, 2015.   Issue 551

Consumer advocacy watchdog Environmental Working Group (EWG) has issued a new iteration of its “Dirty Dozen Guide to Food Additives.” Reportedly based on hundreds of studies and information culled from EWG’s Food Scores database, the resource purports to cover “food additives associated with serious health concerns, ingredients banned or restricted in other countries, and other substances that shouldn’t be in food.” The substances that EWG deems the “dirty dozen” include nitrites and nitrates; potassium bromate; propyl paraben; butylated hydrosyanisole (BHA); butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT); propyl gallate; theobromine; secret flavor ingredients; artificial colors; diacetyl; phosphate-based food additives; and aluminum-based food additives. See EWG Press Release, November 12, 2014.   Issue 545

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will host a public meeting and is soliciting public input on whether to expand the products included in its guidance, titled “Toxicological Principles for the Safety Assessment of Food Ingredients”—also known as the “Redbook.” The agency is apparently considering this expansion “to include chemical safety assessments for all products over which FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) has statutory authority including regulatory contexts such as food additives, food contact substances, dietary supplement ingredients, food contaminants, and cosmetics.” According to FDA, “The Redbook would describe toxicological principles which apply across regulatory categories while still providing specific guidance for applying these principles within each particular context. The safety of foods containing microbial contaminants will continue to remain outside of the scope of the Redbook.” The meeting will take place December 9, 2014, in College Park, Maryland, and those wishing to participate in…

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has denied two citizen petitions asking the agency to prohibit the use of aspartame as a non-caloric sweetener. Dated July 16, 2002, the first petition argued that the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness Response Act authorizes FDA to recall dangerous chemicals without manufacturer approval. Citing studies conducted by the European Ramazzini Foundation (ERF), the second petition urged FDA to revoke approval for the sweetener under the Delaney Clause in section 409(c)(3)(A) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, which provides that “no additive shall be deemed to be safe if it is found to induce cancer when ingested by man or animal, or if it is found, after tests which are appropriate for the evaluation of the safety of food additives, to induce cancer in man or animal.” Responding to these claims, FDA reasoned that the first petition and subsequent comments…

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration have scheduled an October 28, 2014, public meeting in Washington, D.C., to solicit comments about draft positions to be considered at the 36th Session of the Codex Committee on Nutrition and Foods for Special Dietary Uses (CCNFSDU) of the Codex Alimentarius Commission in Bali, Indonesia, on November 24-28. Issues on the October 28 meeting agenda include a (i) discussion paper on biofortification, (ii) proposed draft revision of the Codex General Principles for the Addition of Essential Nutrients to Foods, (iii) proposed draft revision of the list of food additives, and (iv) a proposal to review the Codex Standard for Follow-Up Formula. See Federal Register, September 10, 2014.   Issue 537

Discussing the expedited approval process for food additives that took effect 17 years ago, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Deputy Commissioner for Food Michael Taylor recently told Washington Post reporter Kimberly Kindy that the agency does not have “the information to vouch for the safety of many of these chemicals.” According to the August 17, 2014, article, the number of additives in the food supply has increased to 9,000 from 800 over a 50-year span, in part because a voluntary certification system dependent on industry safety data has eclipsed FDA’s independent review process. Under the Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) scheme, companies need only submit a summary of their safety research to FDA, shortening time to approval even for new and novel food additives. In particular, the Post highlights how a mycoprotein marketed as “Quorn” achieved GRAS status despite one undisclosed study allegedly showing that 5 percent of test…

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has amended food additive regulations pertaining to the safe use of vitamin D3 in response to a petition from Abbott Laboratories. The company requested that FDA approve use of the fat-soluble hormone “as a nutrient supplement at levels not to exceed 500 IUs per 240 mL in meal replacement beverages that are not intended for special dietary use in reducing or maintaining body weight and that are represented for use such that that the total amount of vitamin D3 provided by the product does not exceed 1,000 IU per day, and at levels not to exceed 1.0 IU per kilocalorie in food represented for use as a sole source of nutrition for enteral feeding.” Objections to FDA’s approval of Abbott’s petition or requests for a hearing must be filed by September 11, 2014. See Federal Register, August 12, 2014.   Issue 534

Representatives of more than 170 countries, the European Union and governmental and non-governmental organizations convened in Geneva, Switzerland, on July 14-18, 2014, for the annual meeting of the Codex Alimentarius Commission. Delegates reportedly adopted a recommendation that no more than 0.01 mg/kg of lead be allowed in infant formula and that raw materials be sourced from geographical areas where lead is less prevalent, citing the particular vulnerability of infants and young children to developmental health effects from lead exposure. Codex also set a maximum allowable level for arsenic in rice of 0.2 mg/kg because long-term exposure to the naturally occurring chemical has been linked to the development of cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Other decisions made during the annual meeting related to restricting the use of eight veterinary drugs (chloramphenicol, malachite green, carbadox, furazolidone, nitrofural, chlorpromazine, stilbenes and olaquinadox) in food-producing animals to prevent any residual quantities in meat, milk,…

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has issued the first phase of its Australian Total Diet Study (ATDS), which analyzed chemicals in Australian foods and beverages and concludes that acrylamide and aluminum levels are lower than or consistent with those found in similar foods in other countries. Still, FSANZ CEO Steve McCutcheon said that it was working with industry “to look at ways to reduce acrylamide levels in food, such as encouraging industry to use enzymes that reduce acrylamide formation.” Aluminum levels, which are at their highest levels in cakes, pikelets and pancakes, evidently showed “a slight exceedance for 2-5 year old high consumers.” According to FSANZ, this exceedance is unlikely to “represent a public health and safety issue—however, FSANZ is investigating whether the current permissions for aluminum-containing food additives are still appropriate.” The second ATDS phase will focus on chemicals such as bisphenol A, phthalates and perfluorinated compounds. See…

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