Category Archives Legislation, Regulations and Standards

The European Commission has announced the adoption of strategies to support biodiversity and “transition to a sustainable EU food system that safeguards food security and ensures access to healthy diets sourced from a healthy planet.” “The coronavirus crisis has underlined the importance of a robust and resilient food system that functions in all circumstances, and is capable of ensuring access to a sufficient supply of affordable food for citizens,” a question-and-answer resource on the program stated. “It has also made us acutely aware of the interrelations between our health, ecosystems, supply chains, consumption patterns and planetary boundaries.” The program’s goals include reduction of chemical pesticides, preservation of soil nutrients, reduction in sales of antimicrobials for farmed animals and aquaculture, and an increase in organic farming by 2030. The program will also include the proposal of mandatory front-of-packaging nutrition labeling and efforts to reduce food waste.

U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) has introduced The Real Economic Support That Acknowledges Unique Restaurant Assistance Needed to Survive Act of 2020 (RESTAURANTS Act). The proposed bill would create a $120 billion “restaurant stabilization grant program designed to help independent restaurants deal with the long-term structural challenges facing the industry due to COVID-19 and ensure they can reemploy 11 million workers,” according to Blumenauer’s May 20, 2020, press release. The program, which would be administered by the Department of the Treasury, would provide grants sufficient "to cover the difference between revenues from 2019 and projected revenues through 2020, with a maximum grant of $10 million.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has released a final rule updating regulations on genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The rule adjusts the regulatory process for specific GMOs created to combat plant pests that pose no increased plant pest risk than conventionally bred plants.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has issued a rule implementing the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), which was allocated $9.5 billion in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Stability Act. CFAP provides financial support for agricultural producers affected by COVID-19 to help offset sales losses. The Farm Service Agency and Agricultural Marketing Service will implement the program, which is generally available to producers that “suffered a 5-percent-or-greater price loss over a specified time resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak” or “face additional significant marketing costs for inventories.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has published the results of its investigation into an outbreak of E. coli in November and December 2019 caused by romaine lettuce and other leafy greens from the Salinas Valley area of California. FDA found that nearby land used for cattle grazing was the most likely contributing factor associated with three outbreaks that stemmed from three distinctly different strains of E. coli.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has published a food-safety checklist for retail food establishments that have been closed or operating in a limited capacity during shelter-in-place orders. The list covers issues that may arise if a facility has been closed, such as ensuring water and sewage lines or coolers and freezers are working, and approaches to slowing the spread of COVID-19, such as social distancing measures and increased outdoor air circulation. Checklist sections include facility operations; water, plumbing and ice; cleaning, disinfecting and sanitizing for food contact and non-food contact surfaces; food temperature control; product inspection and rotation; warewashing equipment; handwashing stations; employee health; and social distancing.

Following an executive order directing the U.S. Department of Agriculture to ensure the continued supply of meat and poultry, twenty state attorneys general have submitted a letter urging President Trump to strengthen guidance for meatpacking facilities by requiring increased access to testing and personal protective equipment, implementation of physical distancing where possible, suspension of line speed waivers, and paid leave for workers in isolation or quarantine following exposure to COVID-19. “The industry’s failure to act earlier to protect its labor force, and the Administration’s lack of leadership and support for testing, procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE), and enforcement of federal worker safety standards, will be among the many regrettable lapses contributing to the tragic story of America’s experience with this pandemic,” the letter asserts. The letter calls for voluntary guidance provided to meatpacking facilities to become mandatory. “Even if these recommendations were sufficient to maintain worker safety, however, they…

The Texas Department of State Health Services has published a proposed rule that would regulate “the manufacture, distribution, and retail sale of consumable hemp and consumable hemp products in the State of Texas.” The rule details licensure for consumable hemp manufacturers or distributors; required testing to determine the presence or concentration of cannabinoids, THC, pathogens, pesticides and heavy metals; packaging and labeling requirements; and enforcement measures. The earliest possible date of adoption for the rule is June 7, 2020.

President Trump has issued an executive order directing Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to “ensure the continued supply of meat and poultry” consistent with guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. CDC also issued a report on COVID-19 at meat and poultry processing facilities for the month of April 2020 that found 4,913 cases and 20 deaths among 130,000 workers and cited, among other risks, “crowded, multigenerational” residences and carpooling as relevant factors increasing the likelihood of transmission among employees. The government actions coincide with lawsuits seeking to hold meat and poultry processing plants liable for injury or death caused by COVID-19, including a wrongful death lawsuit brought against Quality Sausage Co. following the death of a forklift driver who allegedly contracted the coronavirus from coworkers. Parra v. Quality Sausage Co., No. DC-20-06406 (Tex. Dist. Ct., filed April 30,…

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has announced that Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. will pay $25 million and enter a deferred prosecution agreement to resolve criminal charges related to foodborne illness outbreaks that occurred between 2015 and 2018. The deferred prosecution agreement will require Chipotle to comply with an improved food safety program for three years to avoid conviction. “This case highlights why it is important for restaurants and members of the food services industry to ensure that managers and employees consistently follow food safety policies,” a DOJ attorney stated in a press release. “The Department of Justice will vigorously enforce food safety laws in order to protect public health.”