Category Archives Department of Agriculture

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is accepting comments on proposed changes to organic standards for livestock and poultry production. Issues addressed in the proposed changes include livestock health care practices, living conditions, transport and slaughter. The many proposed changes include a limit on the types of physical alterations permissible in organic livestock production, such as needle teeth clipping and tail docking in pigs, and the establishment of a distinction between requirements for mammalian living conditions and avian living conditions based on different physiological needs. Comments will be accepted until October 11, 2022.

The attorneys general of 22 states have submitted a letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Department of Agriculture (USDA) asserting that the agencies "are not sufficiently prioritizing a public health problem long overdue for robust action: children’s exposure to neurotoxic heavy metals (lead, arsenic, cadmium, and mercury) through foods specifically designed and marketed for babies and young children." Led by New York Attorney General Letitia James, the group argues that the existing plan to set limits on heavy metals, the Closer to Zero Plan, has "lengthy and vague timelines, which now extend to mid-2024 and beyond," and is "already behind schedule." "As a result of this and other agency delays, U.S. baby food manufacturers continue to largely self-regulate the amount of lead (and other toxic elements) that is contained within their products. Indeed, it remains up to the manufacturers to decide whether even to test their…

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced a public meeting scheduled for April 19, 2022, to discuss U.S. positions for the meeting of the Codex Committee on Contaminants in Foods of the Codex Alimentarius Commission. Issues to be discussed include: "Maximum level for cadmium in cocoa powder (100% total cocoa solids on a dry matter basis)"; "Code of practice for the prevention and reduction of cadmium contamination in cocoa beans"; "Maximum levels for lead in certain food categories"; "Maximum levels for total aflatoxins in certain cereals and cereal-based products including foods for infants and young children"; "Sampling plans and performance criteria for total aflatoxins in certain cereals and cereal-based products including foods for infants and young children"; "Maximum level for total aflatoxins in ready-to-eat peanuts and associated sampling plan"; "Maximum levels for total aflatoxins and ochratoxin A in nutmeg, dried chili and paprika, ginger, pepper and turmeric and associated sampling…

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has proposed its regular update to the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances, which lists the synthetic substances allowed in the cultivation of organic products. The proposed additions are (i) low-acyl gellan gum, which is used as a thickener, and (ii) paper-based crop planting aids, which can transplant closely spaced crops. The proposal also includes a spelling change from "wood resin" to "wood rosin" because the latter term is more specific. Comments on the proposed changes will be accepted until April 4, 2022.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced a public meeting to receive comments on the U.S. positions for the Codex Alimentarius Committee meeting on Nutrition and Foods for Special Dietary Uses. The public meeting, which will be held October 19, 2021, will include discussions on a draft guide for ready-to-use therapeutic foods and the establishment of nutrient reference values-requirements for those aged 6-36 months.

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 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. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced public meetings to discuss U.S. positions for Codex Alimentarius Commission sessions on food contaminants and additives. The contaminants meeting will be held April 12, 2021, and will address issues such as maximum levels of cadmium in chocolate, levels of lead in multiple food categories, radioactivity in water, methylmercury in fish and aflatoxins in spices. The meeting on additives, which will be held May 11, 2021, will include a discussion on proposed draft specifications for identity and purity of food additives.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) inspector general will reportedly review how the agency handled inspections during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to The Washington Post. The probe will review how the Food Safety and Inspection Service spent $33 million in extra funding provided by Congress in March 2020, including what precautions were taken to protect the health of inspectors. The probe comes amid elevated scrutiny on how meatpacking plants have handled the pandemic, including lawsuits targeting meat companies. A Nebraska court dismissed a lawsuit brought by former employees of a Noah's Ark Processors plant alleging the company failed to implement proper precautions to stop the spread of the virus, holding that the employees lacked standing because they no longer work at the plant. Alma v. Noah's Ark Processors LLC, No. 20-3141 (D. Neb., entered March 1, 2021).

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have issued a joint statement stating that "there is no credible evidence of food or food packaging associated with or as a likely source of viral transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus causing COVID-19." The statement was issued one week after the World Health Organization reportedly stated that the virus could be transmitted on frozen food packaging. "The USDA and the FDA are sharing this update based upon the best available information from scientific bodies across the globe, including a continued international consensus that the risk is exceedingly low for transmission of SARS-CoV-2 to humans via food and food packaging. For example, a recent opinion from the International Commission on Microbiological Specifications for Foods (ICMSF), stated: 'Despite the billions of meals and food packages handled since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, to…

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