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The National American Meat Institute and the Alliance for Meat, Poultry and Seafood Innovation have urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to seek more information on cultured or cell-based meat and poultry products. The organizations recommend that USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service issue an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to obtain information about the finished products. "For cell-based/cultured products, there are several approaches to producing these products and, depending on the approach, the characteristics of some products may vary from those of conventional products, as noted by the agencies," the letter notes. " The companies developing these products are committed to supporting and complying with principles that ensure labeling is truthful and not misleading, does not disparage cell-based/cultured or conventional products, enables consumers to distinguish between such products, and is consistent with the safety and nutritional qualities of the product."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced that it will provide an additional 30 days for public comments on the interim final rule (IFR) that established the Domestic Hemp Production Program. According to the announcement, "Comments are solicited from all stakeholders, notably those who were subject to the regulatory requirements of the IFR during the 2020 production cycle." The deadline for comments on the rule is October 8, 2020.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has announced a virtual public meeting of the National Advisory Committee on Meat and Poultry Inspection (NACMPI) on September 24-25, 2020. The objectives are "for the Committee to review and advise about the steps FSIS should take to ensure better control of artisanal, shelf-stable ready-to-eat (RTE) fermented, salt-cured, or dried products that rely on multiple hurdles for lethality" and to "review and advise whether the Agency should continue not to test boxed beef primal and sub-primal products for Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC), if they are intended for intact cuts." USDA also announced the appointment of 10 new members to NACMPI, as well as an additional member to the National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to "delay the issuance of a U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program final rule until 2022 and allow hemp growers and producers across the country and in Upstate New York to continue to operate under the 2014 Farm Bill pilot program regulations until that time." Schumer's press release includes the letter he sent to Secretary Perdue. "[A]s industrial hemp farmers and businesses explore the full benefits of the 2018 Farm Bill, they have experienced serious difficulty integrating the Interim Final Rules into their operations. Particularly in the current COVID climate, I see many farmers and processors in New York struggle with incorporating these changes into the existing state Pilot Programs. In a time when farmers and producers struggle with economic uncertainty, the implementation of the Interim Final Rules will create costs without the support of offsetting revenues."…

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is accepting comments on the Agricultural Marketing Service's proposed amendments to organic regulations concerning oversight and enforcement of the production, handling and sale of organic agricultural products. The proposed rule would require the use of National Organic Program Import Certificates for all organic products entering the United States and "[r]educe the types of uncertified entities in the organic supply chain that operate without USDA oversight—including importers, brokers, and traders of organic products." The proposed amendment also contains provisions that would clarify "the method of calculating the percentage of organic ingredients in a multi-ingredient product" and "conditions for establishing, evaluating, and terminating equivalence determinations with foreign government organic programs, based on an evaluation of their organic foreign conformity systems." Comments will be accepted until October 5, 2020.

The Center for Food Safety and several food retailers have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) alleging that the agency "fell far short of fulfilling the promise of meaningful labeling" of bioengineered (BE) foods with its 2019 labeling rules. Natural Grocers v. Perdue, No. 20-5151 (N.D. Cal., filed July 27, 2020). The complaint takes issue with four aspects of USDA's BE labeling rule. First, the plaintiffs allege that allowing companies to use QR codes to disclose BE ingredients will "discriminate against major portions of the population—the poor, elderly, rural, and minorities—with lower percentages of smartphone ownership, digital expertise, or ability to afford data, or who live in areas in which grocery stores do not have internet bandwidth." The plaintiffs also object to the terminology USDA chose. The rule uses "bioengineered" rather than "genetically engineered" (GE) or "genetically modified" (GM) and prohibits the use of the latter…

Several labor unions and their affiliated international union, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), have filed a lawsuit urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture and its Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) to "set aside a waiver program" for exceeding maximum line speeds on the grounds that FSIS adopted the program without adhering to procedures set forth in the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). U. Food & Comm. Workers Union, Local No. 227 v. USDA, No. 20-2045 (D.D.C., filed July 28, 2020). Under a 2014 rule, FSIS allows poultry plants to process birds at a rate of 140 birds per minute, but a 2018 waiver program allowing some plants to process up to 175 birds per minute has granted waivers to "nearly 43 percent of all plants subject to that regulation," according to the complaint. "In adopting the new waiver program, FSIS ignored concerns—raised by plaintiff UFCW and others—that increasing…

The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will accept comments on recommendations to update the List of Bioengineered Foods as it pertains to the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard. Recommendations include the addition of sugarcane and an amendment to reflect that the only currently available trait for bioengineered summer squash is virus resistance. AMS also noted that it does not find cowpea or rice to qualify for addition to the list but is accepting comments on its assessment. Comments will be accepted until August 24, 2020.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has released the first print of the Scientific Report of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which will be used to guide dietary recommendations. Changes include a reduced recommendation for the percentage of added sugars in an adult's diet and a section for children under two years old. The report also notes the effects of COVID-19 on its findings. "As more is learned about infection by SARS-Co V-2 and the development of COVID19, it is clear that it has significant nutritional implications. These parallel epidemics, one noninfectious ( obesity and diet-related chronic diseases) and one infectious (COVID-19), appear to be synergistic. Those at most risk for the most serious outcomes of COVID-19, including hospitalization and death, are people afflicted by diet-related chronic diseases (obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease). Finally, throughout the world, the…

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has issued a response to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine's petition urging the agency to require meat and poultry processing plants to publish information about COVID-19 testing and infection rates at their facilities and to include on their product labels the statement "Warning: Workers in U.S. meat and poultry processing facilities have been sickened or killed by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and this product has not been certified virus-free.” USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service states that it does not have the authority to require facilities to report on the health information of their workers. The agency's response further notes that the proposed warning statement "is misleading because it inaccurately implies that meat and poultry products that have not been 'certified as virus-free' may transmit COVID-19 or are somehow unsafe. As discussed above, public health and food safety experts have found no evidence to…

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