Category Archives U.S. Government and Regulatory Agencies

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has requested comments on "the labeling of meat and poultry products comprised of or containing cultured cells derived from animals subject to the Federal Meat Inspection Act or the Poultry Products Inspection Act." Comments will be accepted until November 2, 2021. The announcement details the U.S. Cattlemen's Association's 2018 petition urging the agency to "limit the definition of 'beef' to products derived from cattle born, raised, and harvested in the traditional manner, and thereby prohibit foods comprised of or containing cultured animal cells from being labeled as 'beef.'” In response to the petition, the agency received more than 6,000 comments "from trade associations, consumer advocacy groups, businesses operating in the meat, poultry, and cultured food product markets, and consumers," the announcement states. "Most comments opposed the petition overall; however, nearly all generally agreed that cultured meat and beef should be labeled in a manner that…

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the results of a study on the presence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in processed foods, including baby foods. Out of 167 samples, three products had detectable levels of PFAS, the agency stated, and the amounts were not elevated to a level of concern. "Based on the best available current science, the FDA has no scientific evidence that the levels of PFAS found in the samples tested indicate a need to avoid any particular food in the food supply." “The FDA’s testing for certain PFAS in such a wide range of foods available, including those commonly eaten by babies and young children, is among the first study of its kind,” said Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock in a press release. “Although our studies to date, including these newly released results, do not suggest that there is any need to avoid particular…

The Center for Science in the Public Interest has joined three other advocacy groups and four poultry producers to urge the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to update poultry food safety standards. "While progress on reducing foodborne illness has been at a standstill, scientific knowledge of Salmonella has greatly increased and recognized best practices for Campylobacter and other pathogens have advanced. Science tells us that current performance standards do not effectively target the particular types of Salmonella and the levels of bacteria that pose the greatest risks of illness, and the overall regulatory framework does not adequately harness modern tools for preventing and verifying control of the bacteria that are making people sick," the letter to Secretary Tom Vilsack states. "In order to finally make public health progress on Salmonella and Campylobacter illnesses and meet the Healthy People 2030 targets, significant change in the [Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS)]…

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has "launched a challenge to spur the development of affordable, tech-enabled traceability tools to help protect people and animals from contaminated foods by enabling the rapid identification of their sources and helping remove them from the marketplace as quickly as possible." The agency has asked "food technology solution providers, public health advocates, entrepreneurs and innovators across the human and animal food supply chain to present food traceability solutions that utilize economic models that are affordable, with costs that are proportional to the benefits received and can scale to encourage widespread adoption." FDA will accept submissions until July 30, 2021, and will select up to 12 winners for the challenge. Winners "will have the opportunity to present their work publicly in a webinar planned for September and their videos will be posted for public viewing."

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a compliance policy guide on aflatoxins in human food. "Aflatoxins may occur in food as a result of mold growth in susceptible raw agricultural commodities," the guide explains. "The growth of molds that produce aflatoxins is influenced by environmental factors such as temperature, humidity, and extent of rainfall during the pre-harvesting, harvesting, or post-harvesting periods. Foods most susceptible to molds that produce aflatoxins include: peanuts, corn, some tree nuts including Brazil nuts and pistachios, and some small grains such as rice. Because aflatoxins are known carcinogens to humans, the presence of aflatoxins in foods should be reduced to the lowest levels attainable using modern agricultural and processing techniques." FDA issued guides for aflatoxins in brazil nuts, peanuts and peanut products, and pistachio nuts.

New York Attorney General Letitia James has announced a probe into whether baby food contains toxic elements such as arsenic and other metals. In a press release, James said, "“Baby food manufacturers have a legal and moral obligation to ensure the safety of their products, and provide peace-of-mind to the parents who rely on their products every day. Through this probe, I am committed to protecting the health and wellness of the next generation.” D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine filed a lawsuit against Beech-Nut Nutrition Co., alleging "that Beech-Nut’s deceptive and misleading advertising violated the District’s consumer protection laws and misled parents that its baby food underwent the most stringent testing and was fully safe for babies when, in fact, the food contained high levels of toxic heavy metals." Racine is quoted as saying, “No company should profit by illegally deceiving parents about products that actually jeopardize the health and…

The U.S. House of Representatives has voted 415-11 to pass the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education, and Research Act of 2021 (FASTER Act), a bill that will expand the definition of "major food allergen" to include sesame. The bipartisan bill, which passed the Senate in March 2021, will head to the White House for President Biden's signature. Upon enactment, sesame will become the ninth major food allergen, joining milk, egg, wheat, peanuts, shellfish, tree nuts, fish and soybeans.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released "Closer to Zero," its action plan for reducing infants' exposure to heavy metals following a Congressional report on toxic elements in baby foods. "Although the FDA’s testing shows that children are not at an immediate health risk from exposure to toxic elements at the levels found in foods, we are starting the plan’s work immediately, with both short- and long-term goals for achieving continued improvements in reducing levels of toxic elements in these foods over time," the agency states. Under the plan, FDA will (i) "evaluate the scientific basis for action levels," (ii) "propose action levels," (iii) "consult with stakeholders on proposed action levels," and then (iv) "finalize action levels." The agency will then "establish a timeframe for assessing industry’s progress toward meeting the action levels and recommence the cycle to determine if the scientific data support efforts to further adjust…

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has issued "Imported Seafood Safety: FDA Should Improve Monitoring of Its Warning Letter Process and Better Assess Its Effectiveness," finding that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was inconsistent in following key procedures and meeting goals for monitoring the importation of seafood. The report's recommendation is that FDA "(1) establish a process to monitor whether the agency is following the procedures and meeting the goals established for its warning letter process for imported seafood, and (2) develop performance goals and measures to assess how effective warning letters are at ensuring the safety of imported seafood."

U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) have reintroduced legislation that would "ensure that kombucha beverages are exempt from excise taxes and regulations intended specifically for beer and other alcoholic beverages," according to a press release. The KOMBUCHA Act would increase the alcohol-by-volume level at which alcohol taxes would be applied to kombucha, "a nonintoxicating beverage made from a combination of tea, water, and a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast," to 1.25% rather than the existing standard of 0.5%. "This amount of alcohol in kombucha is usually less than 0.5 percent alcohol, but because of the natural process of fermentation, the alcohol content may occasionally increase slightly, especially during transport or handling by third parties," the press release states. "Today, under the Internal Revenue Code, beverages with more than 0.5 percent alcohol-by-volume are subject to excise taxes intended for beer. But the reality is, consumers do…

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