Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Food poisoning can sometimes lead to chronic illness

The St. Petersburg Times Tampabay.com ran today’s article by Annys Shin’s (of the Washington Post) on the long-term health consequences of foodborne illnesses.

Campylobacter, a bacterium associated with raw chicken, a leading cause of Guillain-Barre syndrome. Certain strains of Salmonella can cause arthritis. And E. coli O157:H7 can release toxins that cause hemolytic uremic syndrome, or “HUS, a kidney disorder that in 25 to 50 percent of cases leads to kidney failure, high blood pressure and other problems as much as 10 years later, including the risk of birth defects.”

“Until recently, doctors were focused on the acute phase of food-borne infections, but since the 1990s, there has been "a more gradual recognition that some of the pathogens do have long-term (effects)," said Marguerite Neill, an infectious-disease specialist who teaches at Brown University.

“The impact of HUS, however, is great. .  . According to a long-term study of 157 HUS victims co-written in 1994 by Andrew Pavia, an infectious-disease expert at the University of Utah, more than half developed kidney problems seven or more years after the initial illness.

“These people face a lifetime of medical treatment. ‘Anyone with HUS will be monitored for the rest of their lives. If the acute course was severe enough, the risk of long-term kidney complications, including end-stage renal disease and kidney transplant, is quite high. The future medical cost alone can then be in the millions,’ said William Marler, a Seattle lawyer who sues retailers and food companies on behalf of food poisoning victims. . . .”

My wish for Santa is that everyone will focus more on food safety during the holidays and in the new year.

Hat tip to the Marler Blog by

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

FDA Commissioner Eschenbach to Resign

Alicia Mundy, Wall St. Journal (Dec. 15, 2008).

“Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach has told his staff that he plans to resign effective Jan. 20, 2009. “In an internal message sent Monday to FDA officials, Dr. von Eschenbach said he would work closely with President-elect Barack Obama's transition team "to ensure a seamless change in political leadership at the agency. As with any transition, there will likely be changes for other senior managers as well, although all current Deputy Commissioners and the Chief of Staff are career civil servants who have served me and FDA well." . . .

For “The Onion” style humor at the Pharma Marketing Blog: Eschenbach Announces Resignation, FDA Staffer Throws Shoes in "Farewell Kiss".

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Proposed Serving Facts Labeling for Alcoholic Beverages

TTB proposes to require Serving Facts labeling on alcoholic beverages which would be similar to this Nutrition Facts labeling. The new rules would requires a statement of alcohol content as well. You can read more at Bevlog, where you can also seen an image of what the new alcohol beverage labels might look like.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

US Mustard Tariffs in Retaliation for EU limits on hormones with US Beef

Barry Levenson, Curator of the Mount Horeb Mustard Museum, wrote Habeas Codfish: Reflections on Food and the Law, which is an entertaining and recommended book.

Barry wrote guest posting which follows:

For the last nine years European mustards have been subject to a 100 percent tariff. Not only has this meant higher prices for our mustards from Dijon, from Ireland, from Germany, from Holland, etc., it has also resulted in fewer European mustards coming into the U.S.

You can do something to help get rid of this terrible tax on imported mustards.

First, some brief background. In 1999, the U.S. imposed 100 percent duties on a variety of goods in retaliation for Europe’s unwillingness to buy American beef from cattle that had been treated with growth hormones. Some of these goods were European beef products and that made sense. However, the office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) went further and imposed duties on several randomly selected goods, including mustard.

Although the beef hormone dispute remains unsettled, we have a chance to get mustard off of the hit list. The USTR is soliciting public comments on the items on the current hit list with the possibility that some items will be removed. THAT’S WHERE YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

Comments are due by Monday, December 8. You can fax them or send them electronically. I have already sent in my comments and you can see them by following the URL address at the end of this paragraph and then double-clicking the PDF icon after the word ‘VIEWS.’ http://www.regulations.gov/fdmspublic/component/main?main=DocumentDetail&o=09000064807c1ecf

Now it’s your turn to participate in the process. You can fax your comments to Sandy McKinzy at (202)-395-3640 or by posting them electronically at the government web site, http://www.regulations.gov/.

When you open the site, you can get to the right docket by typing the following in the ‘SEARCH DOCUMENTS’ box: USTR-2008-0036 and then <<GO>>. This will take you to the page with all of the posted comments. On the left side of the page, you will see ‘DOCUMENT TYPE.’

Click on NOTICES. Then click on ‘Send a Comment or Submission’ (next to a yellow thought bubble).

Be sure to put at the top of your comment: “Re: Prepared Mustard, HTS21033040” Even something as simple as “Please, take mustard off the tariff list” will help.

I have met personally with representatives of the USTR. I do not advise trying to take sides in the beef-hormone dispute; they are firm in their position that hormone treated beef is safe.

Then voice your support for removing mustard from the tariff list.



Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Scientific Panel Rebukes FDA on BPA

“A scientific panel has issued a blistering report against the Food and Drug Administration, saying the agency ignored important evidence in reassuring consumers about the safety of the controversial chemical bisphenol-A,” wrote Tara Parker-Pope, “Panel Rebukes F.D.A. on Plastic Safety,” the New York Times. BPA is used to make plastic water and baby bottles and in the lining of soft drinks and canned food products.

“The panel . . . did not draw any conclusions about the safety of the chemical, known as BPA. But it criticized the F.D.A. for ignoring crucial studies and using what it said were flawed methods in reaching its conclusions.”

“In its statement, the F.D.A. said consumers should know that ‘based on all available evidence, the present consensus among regulatory agencies in the United States, Canada, Europe and Japan is that current levels of exposure to BPA through food packaging do not pose an immediate health risk to the general population, including infants and babies.’”

For a PDF of the scientific group’s full report, click here.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Philadelphia to Require Nutrition Labeling on Chain Restaurant Menus

Philadelphia has become the latest U.S. city to require restaurants to list calories on their menus. In a 12 to 5 vote, the city council approved an ordinance requiring food service establishments with 15 or more outlets to provide the total number of calories, saturated fat, trans fat, carbohydrates and sodium for all foods and beverages offered for sale on menus. For items not on menus but on menu boards or with food tags, the nutrition information may be limited to the total number of calories per item provided that the additional information is made available to customers upon request. Restaurants that fall under the ordinance must comply by January 1, 2010.

For a copy of the ordinance click here. For a copy of an article in Philly.com click here.

UK Food Standards Agency Advises Pregnant Women to Limit Caffeine

The United Kingdom’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) is advising pregnant women to limit caffeine intake to 200 mg a day. The FSA had previously advised a maximum daily intake of 300 mg. The new guidelines follows research carried out on behalf of the FSA by the Universities of Leeds and Leicester.

Too much caffeine might result in a baby having a lower birth weight than it should, which can increase the risk of some health conditions for the baby in later life, or could possibly result in spontaneous miscarriage.” FSA Press Release. “Professor Justin Konje, Chair of the Project Steering Group from the University of Leicester, said: ‘This was a large study involving about 2,500 pregnant women, designed to overcome the limitations of previous research in this area.’”

“This new advice doesn’t mean that pregnant women have to cut out caffeine completely, simply that they should be careful and make sure they don't have too much,” said Andrew Wadge, FSA chief scientist. “We would emphasize that the risks are likely to be very small and believe our new advice, which is based on new research and has been considered by leading independent scientists, is sensible and proportionate.”

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Wyeth v. Levine – Supreme Court Oral Argument

The U.S. Supreme recently heard oral arguments on Wyeth v. Levine. The case is being watched closely by those interested in FDA preemption law. CNBC called it the “business case of the century.”

Diana Levine brought a common-law negligence claim against Wyeth, claiming that Wyeth should have revised a drug’s FDA-approved label to bar IV push administration. Wyeth argued that Ms. Levine’s state tort suit was preempted by federal law. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Ms. Levine, and the court opinion held that the jury’s state law based judgment presented no obstacle to FDA’s regulatory objectives. Wyeth appealed to the state supreme court.

In a divided opinion, the Vermont Supreme Court upheld the trial court’s ruling. The Court found that FDA approval is not required to strengthen label warnings, so Wyeth could have complied with both state and federal law. The court also held that FDA labeling regulations create minimum requirements, and that state tort liability for FDA-approved labels would not frustrate the objective of promoting the public health that led Congress to enact the FD&C Act. The Vermont Supreme Court did not afford any deference to recent FDA statements claiming that “FDA approval of labeling under the [FD&C Act] . . . preempts conflicting or contrary State law,” and that “FDA interprets the [FD&C Act] to establish both a ‘floor’ and a ‘ceiling,’ such that additional disclosures of risk information can expose a manufacturer to liability under the act if the additional statement is unsubstantiated or otherwise false or misleading.” Wyeth appealed the Vermont Supreme Court decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

For additional information on this case and the issues:
· An excellent overview of the case is provided by Kurt R. Karst in the FDA Law Blog.
· Additional background on the case is available at the Drug & Device Law Blog.
· The briefs filed in the case and other background materials are available via the SCOTUS Wiki.
· A transcript of the oral argument is available here.
· Ed Silverman has predicted that the new President and a Democratic Congress will erase any preemption protection won in the last eight years.
· The American Association for Justice, the trial lawyers’ group, issued a preemption report last week, “Get Out Of Jail Free: How the Bush Administration Helps Corporations Escape Accountability.”
· A report prepared for Rep. Henry Waxman as Chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform found that some FDA career officials objected to Bush Administration drug labeling preemption policy. The senior officials viewed justifications for labeling preemption as “false and misleading,” based on “false assumption,” “naïve to what actually occurs in practice,” and relied on “gross overstatement.”

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

WSJ: Restaurants Prep For Rules On Menu Data

“While federal menu-labeling standards would unify a hodgepodge of local and state ordinances, restaurant operators will confront issues including costs associated with redesign and installation, overcrowded menu listings and customers coming face-to-face with their caloric intake before ordering.

Congressional leaders recently introduced the Labeling Education and Nutrition, or Lean, Act that would create a uniform standard requiring restaurants and grocery chains with more than 20 locations that serve prepared food to post calories on menus and menu boards.

Several national chains and the industry's largest trade group have thrown their weight behind the bill. Yum Brands Inc. has said it would voluntarily post calories on menu boards at company-owned restaurants by 2011.

The federal legislation follows similar menu-labeling laws passed in California, New York City and other places in recent months.

While some restaurant operators oppose additional regulation, having one standard for their menus and menu boards would solve a major concern: having different variations of laws aimed at providing nutritional information to customers.

"Imagine running a national chain and having 30 or 50 different menu-disclosure requirements," said Dennis Lombardi, a restaurant consultant with WD Partners. "Having to create space and produce these variations would become a nightmare." . . .

In New York, which passed a law requiring calorie counts to be displayed more prominently, consumers have changed their consumption habits. According to a survey by restaurant research firm Technomic Inc., most customers are either buying lower-calorie alternatives or cutting out certain items altogether.

Calorie-disclosure laws could have the most negative impact on casual-dining chains. Diners may be more aware that fast-food chains have a bevy of high-calorie meal options, but may be surprised to learn how many calories are in some casual-dining offerings, according to Buckingham Research Group analyst Mitchell J. Speiser.


Thursday, October 02, 2008

FDA Amending Health Claim for Calcium and Osteoporosis

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is amending its labeling regulation authorizing a health claim on the relationship between calcium and a reduced risk of osteoporosis to:

1) Include vitamin D so that, in addition to the claim for calcium and osteoporosis, an additional claim can be made for calcium and vitamin D and osteoporosis;
2) Eliminate the requirement that the claim list sex, race, and age as specific risk factors for the development of osteoporosis;
3) Eliminate the requirement that the claim does not state or imply that the risk of osteoporosis is equally applicable to the general U.S. population, and that the claim identify the populations at particular risk for the development of osteoporosis;
4) Eliminate the requirement that the claim identify the mechanism by which calcium reduces the risk of osteoporosis and instead make it optional;
5) Eliminate the requirement that the claim include a statement that a total dietary intake greater than 200 percent of the recommended daily intake (2,000 milligrams (mg) of calcium) has no further benefit to bone health when the food contains 400 mg or more of calcium per reference amount customarily consumed or per total daily recommended supplement intake; and
6) Allow reference for the need of physical activity in either of the health claims to be optional rather than required.

This final rule is effective January 1, 2010. For more information, visit 73 Federal Register 56477–56487 (Sept. 29, 20008), which is available here: [TEXT] [PDF]

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Creekstone Farms v. USDA

In a split decision the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in Creekstone Farms Premium Beef v. USDA, the majority found that the Virus-Serum-Toxin Act (VSTA) authorizes USDA to prohibit use of a test kit for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). VSTA authorizes USDA to enact regulations “as may be necessary to prevent the preparation, sale, barter, exchange, or shipment as aforesaid of any worthless, contaminated, dangerous, or harmful virus, serum, toxin, or analogous product for use in the treatment of domestic animals, or otherwise to carry out this chapter.”

The court accepted USDA’s interpretation of “analogous products” to include test kits that are used in the diagnosis of disease. Diagnosis of disease is integral to the treatment of disease, so this is not too far of a stretch to include diagnosis as part of treatment. But Creekstone Farms never intended to use the test for the treatment of disease. Creekstone would have tested only already dead animals. Further, BSE is invariably fatal and untreatable. USDA’s argument that Creekstone’s testing would be a form of treatment stretches plausibility. Nonetheless, a diagnostic test that helps control of the spread of a disease might be squeezed into “treatment.”

But the stretching must continue because VSTA applies to products that are used in treatment of domestic animals and are a “worthless, contaminated, dangerous, or harmful virus, serum, toxin, or analogous product.” The agency appears to lacks authority to restrict useful, non-contaminated, non-dangerous, non-harmful products. USDA finds this BSE test kit worthwhile enough to use in its own testing, so it is not clear how this BSE test kit is worthless, contaminated, dangerous, or harmful.

USDA argues, not that the test kits are worthless, but only Creekstone’s proposed use is worthless. Given the young age of most cattle at slaughter and the long incubation period for BSE, USDA argues the test would produce meaningless results. This authority to regulate the use of otherwise acceptable test needs to be pulled from VSTA general empowerment of USDA to enact regulations to, “otherwise carry out” the Act. What if Creekstone wanted to use home pregnancy test kits on its cattle? Would USDA have the authority to ban this use?

In his dissent, Judge Sentelle remained unpersuaded that VSTA grants this “use” authority. Sentelle found USDA “exceeded the bounds of reasonableness” in aggregating power to itself. Sentelle explained, "congressional provision of an expressed authority mandate to accomplish statutory goals does not create for the agency ‘a roving commission’ to achieve those or ‘any other laudable goal,' by means beyond the authority granted in the statute." [Citations omitted.]

This matter has not ended. One count remains to be decided by the district court. Creekstone argues that USDA's refusal to allow Creekstone to purchase BSE test kits to test its own cattle is arbitrary and capricious. USDA offered two reasons for the denial. The agency asserts that this use would not be scientifically sound, and USDA has a mandate to “maintain domestic international confidence in U.S. cattle and beef products.”

However, Creekstone did not want to test to ensure the safety of its beef but, rather, to allow the company export its meat to Japan and Korea. From Judge Sentelle’s dissent, “It seems that the Department’s fear is that Creekstone’s use of the test kits would enable it to provide buyers with a false assurance that the cattle from which its beef is obtained are free of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy. However, as I read the record, all Creekstone hopes to do is assure foreign buyers that the beef is as well-tested as would be the case with beef produced in the home countries of those buyers.” The purpose of VSTA is not to prevent false claims, and USDA has other authorities to prevent false claims, as does the Federal Trade Commission.

Granted, USDA has a mandate to maintain domestic international confidence in U.S. cattle and beef products. How USDA finds these reasons within its authority under VSTA is unclear. It will be interesting to see whether either of these reasons can survive the arbitrary and capricious test on the district court’s review.

Hat tip to Jonathan Adler and The Volokh Conspiracy for his insight on this decision.

Friday, September 26, 2008

FDA Public Meetings on Produce Traceability

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced two public meetings regarding product tracing systems for fresh produce. The purpose of the meetings is to stimulate and focus a discussion about mechanisms to enhance product tracing systems for fresh produce and to improve FDA's ability to use the information in such systems to identify the source of contamination associated with fresh produce-related outbreaks of foodbome illness.

This discussion will help FDA determine what short and long term steps we should take to enhance the current tracing system. FDA hopes to address concerns on specific issues ranging from the scope of traceability and the costs, benefits and logistics of standardization, to FDA's role in enhancing produce traceability.

If you would like to attend one or both of the produce traceability meetings, you are requested to register in advance. For further information, contact: Deborah Harris, EDJ Associates, Inc., 11300 Rockville Pike, suite 1001, Rockville, NID 20852,240-221-4326, FAX: 301-945-4295, e-mail: dharris@edjassociates.com.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Food Claims and Litigation Conference

The Grocery Manufacturers Association's Annual 2009 Food Claims and Litigation Conference is scheduled to take place February 24-26, 2009 and will be held at Rancho Las Palmas in Rancho Mirage, CA. Nationally recognized authorities from the food, legal, and scientific communities will present these issues in a thought-provoking environment:

· Recent Developments in Food Product Liability
· Country-of-Origin-Labeling
· Utilizing Internal Company Resources to Help Defend a Food Product Liability Lawsuit
· Food Safety McCarthyism
· Confronting Criminal Allegations When Contamination Hits
· Pre-Litigation Risk Management for Consumer Products Companies
· CA Prop 65 and Food, The Current Landscape of Food
· Litigation from a Plaintiff’s Perspective
· Utilizing Non-Traditional Discovery Methods to Investigate and Defeat the Plaintiff’s Case
· Flavoring Litigation
· Current Issues with the Insurance Industry Current Issues with the Insurance Industry

For more information, click here. <http://www.gmalitigationconference.com/>

Monday, September 15, 2008

Student Writing Competitions in Legal Medicine

The American College of Legal Medicine (ACLM) has announced their 2009 Student Writing Competitions in Legal Medicine.

Legal Medicine Writing Competition

ACLM will award $1,000 each winner in three categories: medical student, law student, and health care professional student. Papers must be submitted by January 9, 2009. For more information, click here.

Bioethics Student Writing Competition

ACLM will present awards for three outstanding original papers written by law or health professions students on topics in bioethics. 1st Prize – $1,000 2nd Prize – $500 3rd Prize – $250. In addition, the ACLM will pay the costs of travel and lodging for the winner of the 1st prize to present his or her paper at the ACLM Annual Meeting, February 27- March 1, 2009 in Las Vegas, NV Travel and lodging arrangements will be made by the ACLM. The deadline for submission is January 9, 2009. For more information, click here.

Friday, September 12, 2008

ERS "Food Safety and Import"

The USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) has published, Food Safety and Imports: An Analysis of FDA Import Refusal Report. The report examines the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) data on refusals of food offered for importation into the United States from 1998 to 2004. The report does not necessarily show the distribution of risks because FDA has focused its import efforts on problems that appear to recur. The data show some food industries and types of violations may be consistent sources of problems both over time. The three food industry groups with the most violations were vegetables (20.6 percent of total violations), fishery and seafood (20.1 percent), and fruits (11.7 percent).

The full report is available here.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Irradiation as a Food Processing Aid for Beef

The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced that it has received a petition from the American Meat Institute (AMI) to recognize the use of low penetration and low dose electron beam irradiation on the surface of chilled beef carcasses as a processing aid. FSIS will hold a public meeting on September 18, 2008, to review the information contained in the petition and to receive public comments on what action it should take with respect to the petition. FSIS is also receiving comments until October 18, 2008.
The announcement of the meeting and direction for submitting comments is available here: [TEXT] [PDF].

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Illinois Food Safety Symposium Sept. 24-25

Regional food professional conferences often are underappreciated bargains for continuing education and professional development. These regional venues provide an ideal forum for professional growth and networking. One such conference is the Illinois Food Safety Symposium, which will be held September 24-25, in Champaign, Illinois.

I am speaking on “Why Food Laws Matter” on September 24. The conference is sponsored by The Illinois Department of Public Health, the Illinois Department of Agriculture, and the Illinois Public Health Association.

Friday, August 29, 2008

“Male Enhancement” Dietary Supplement Distributor Sentenced to 25 Years for Fraud

The Food Law Blog reports that "a federal court has sentenced Steven Warshak, founder of Berkeley Premium Nutraceuticals, to 25 years in prison for crimes including mail fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, and money laundering. In addition, Warshak and other defendants must forfeit money and assets in excess of $500 million. Berkeley reportedly made hefty profits from the sale of Enzyte, a dietary supplement, which was claimed to promote 'natural male enhancement.'"

The sentencing is based on an array of unlawful business practices, including unsubstantiated claims but also the placement of unauthorized charges on customers' credit cards.

The AP story is available here.

Nutritional Law Symposium - September 12, 2008

The fourth annual Nutritional Law Symposium will be held in Lehi, Utah, on September 12. The symposium promises to stimulate discussion on some important issues facing the industry. The Governor of the State of Utah is scheduled to attend and give the keynote address. For more information, visit: http://www.stoel.com/showevent.aspx?Show=3046.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

National Food Safety Education Month

The free training materials for the upcoming National Food Safety Education Month are now available in Spanish and English. These materials are designed around the 2008 theme, “Take Action to Prevent an Allergic Reaction,” (Tome Medidas para Prevenir las Reacciones Alérgicas) and help operators reinforce the importance of reducing the incidence of food allergy reactions in the establishment by focusing on five weekly themes:

  • Know the Common Food Allergens (Conozca las sustancias alergénicas más comunes)
  • Communication with the Customer (Cómo comunicarse con los clientes)
  • Avoiding Cross-Contact (Cómo evitar el contacto cruzado)
  • When Mistakes Happen (Cuando ocurren errores)
  • Symptoms of an Allergic Reaction (Los síntomas de las reacciones alérgicas) “

Full Press Release: http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20080825005715/en

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Makers of Airborne Settle FTC Charges of Deceptive Advertising; Agreement Brings Total Settlement Funds to $30 Million

Airborne Health, Inc., the maker of the popular Airborne Effervescent Health Formula, marketed as a cold prevention and treatment remedy, has agreed to pay up to $30 million to settle Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charges that it did not have adequate evidence to support its advertising claims. The FTC’s lawsuit also names Victoria Knight-McDowell, the former schoolteacher who invented Airborne, and her husband Thomas John McDowell. The monetary judgment will be satisfied by the defendants’ adding $6.5 million to the funds they have already agreed to pay to settle a related private class-action lawsuit, bringing the total settlement fund to $30 million. Consumers Have Until September 15 to Apply for Refunds.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

FDA Public Hearing on Food Allergen Advisory Labeling

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has scheduled a public hearing on allergen advisory labeling on September 16, 2008, at the FDA’s Harvey W. Wiley Building in College Park, Maryland. Formal notice of the Hearing published in the Federal Register on August 8, 2008. (FR 73 46302)

FDA is developing a long-term strategy to assist manufacturers in using allergen advisory labeling that is truthful and not misleading, conveys a clear and uniform message, and adequately informs food allergic consumers and their caregivers. To that end, FDA is soliciting comments and information to assist the agency in determining how manufacturers currently use advisory labeling, how consumers interpret different advisory labeling statements, and what wording is likely to be most effective in communicating to consumers the likelihood that an allergen may be present in a food. The agency is also interested in receiving comments about whether consumers find advisory labeling helpful for making food purchasing decisions. This public hearing is the first step in closing existing knowledge gaps in developing our long-term strategy.

The hearing will include presentations by agency officials, invited speakers and members of the public. The Federal Register Notice and information regarding registration are available on the FDA Web site.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

UK Food Standards Agency revised guidance for the use of the terms Fresh, Pure, Natural etc.

UK’s Food Standards Agency has revised its advice on the use of labeling terms such as “fresh,” “pure,” and “natural.”

The revised guidance includes advice on the use of new terms, including include: farmhouse pâté, handmade, quality, selected, premium, finest and best. It also has new advice for some of the terms that were in the previous guidance – and advises against the use of some terms that can cause confusion.

For more information, click here.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

EFSA Yes or No on Cloned Meat?

"EU food safety experts say NO to cloned meat."
The European Food Safety Authority will not allow the marketing of meat and milk from cloned animals in the European Union, EU sources say. "EFSA says it has increased concerns regarding animal welfare and possible concerns regarding food safety due to the limited data available," according to a source close to the European Commission's probe. The Daily Mail (London)
(7/24) , Reuters (7/23).

but . . .

EFSA reaffirms safety view of cloned meat and dairy products
Meat and dairy products from cloned pigs and cattle are probably safe for human consumption, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) concluded in its scientific opinion on animal cloning released today . . . FoodProductionDaily.com (24-Jul-2008).

DA Seeks Comments on Newly-Enacted Section 301(ll) of the FD&C Act

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently published a notice in the Federal Register requesting data, information, and comments relevant to the agency's implementation of Section 912 of the Food and Drug Administration Amendments Act of 2007 (FDAAA). We are issuing this Constituent Update to alert you to this request and to encourage you to submit relevant data, information, and comments. You may submit written comments to the Division of Dockets Management (HFA-305), Food and Drug Administration, 5630 Fishers Lane, rm. 1061, Rockville, MD 20852. You may also submit electronic comments to www.regulations.gov. All comments are to be submitted by October 27, 2008.

Section 912 of FDAAA establishes section 301(ll) in the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, which prohibits the interstate shipment of certain foods to which an approved drug or a licensed biological product has been added. Section 301(ll) also prohibits the interstate shipment of foods containing an added drug or a biological product that has been the subject of substantial clinical investigations, the existence of which has been made public. Foods that may be affected by the provisions of section 301(ll) include human food, including infant formula, medical foods, and dietary supplements, and their ingredients; food contact substances, including most food packaging; and animal feed, including pet food and feed ingredients. We are seeking comments about the impact of section 301(ll) on food in all its forms, including food ingredients, categories of food, and finished food products.

We believe that section 301(ll) presents a number of questions of statutory interpretation for our consideration. So that we may better understand the impact of various interpretations of section 301(ll), we are requesting comments on possible approaches to implementation and the impact of those approaches. We have included in the Federal Register notice a series of questions to guide your responses to our request for comments.

If you have questions about this request for comments, you may contact Catherine Copp at Catherine.copp@fda.hhs.gov.

USDA details COOL interim final rules

The U.S. Department of Agriculture yesterday issued an interim final rule for the mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL) program that will become effective on Sept. 30. The rule covers muscle cuts and ground beef (including veal), lamb, chicken, goat, and pork; perishable agricultural commodities (fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables); macadamia nuts; pecans; ginseng; and peanuts -- as required by the 2002 and 2008 Farm Bills. USDA implemented the COOL program for fish and shellfish covered commodities in October 2004.

Commodities covered under COOL must be labeled at retail to indicate their country of origin. However, they are excluded from mandatory COOL if they are an ingredient in a processed food item. USDA has also revised the definition of a processed food item so that items derived from a covered commodity that has undergone a physical or chemical change (e.g., cooking, curing, smoking) or that has been combined with other covered commodities or other substantive food components (e.g., chocolate, breading, tomato sauce) are excluded from COOL labeling.

Food service establishments, such as restaurants, lunchrooms, cafeterias, food stands, bars, lounges, and similar enterprises are exempt from the mandatory country of origin labeling requirements.

The rule outlines the requirements for labeling covered commodities. It reduces the recordkeeping retention requirements for suppliers and centrally-located retail records to one year and removes the requirement to maintain records at the retail store. The law provides for penalties for both suppliers and retailers found in violation of the law of up to $1,000 per violation.

The rule prescribes specific criteria that must be met for a covered commodity to bear a "United States country of origin" declaration. In addition, the rule also contains provisions for labeling covered commodities of foreign origin, meat products from multiple origins, ground meat products, as well as commingled covered commodities.

USDA plans to conduct education and outreach activities during the six months following the rule's effective date to help the industry comply with the law.

The full text of the interim final rule will be published in the Aug. 1, 2007, Federal Register.

Copies of the interim final rule and additional information can be found at: http://www.ams.usda.gov/COOL.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Warning: May Contain Guff

Warning: May Contain Guff, Conor Pope, Irish Times (Jul. 28, 2008)

There was a time when the only the makers of certain shampoos and moisturisers could get away making absolutely ridiculous claims about their products. In recent years, however, more and more manufacturers have climbed on board the crazy train and now if you take a walk through your local supermarket, you will quickly lose count of the number of foods that promise to keep you alive and gorgeous looking for longer.

There are sugary cereal bars which use extra nutrients and calcium to distract from their calorific content, vegetable spreads that promise to lower your cholesterol in a heart beat and yoghurt drinks with unpronounceable additives which, the ads say, will improve you digestion and immunity. And because these products are even better than real food — as the manufacturers will have you believe — they can justify charging a premium for them. It's a win win situation, for them at any rate.

Last year the increasingly outlandish claims being made on some food labels finally prompted the EU to take action, and legislation was introduced prohibiting manufacturers from making unverifiable health claims about their products. In the future, all nutritional or health claims will have to be backed by proper scientific evidence, although certain products are hanging in there after getting a two-year derogation so they can get their houses in order.

Functional foods, which claim to have beneficial nutrients added, are not entirely without merit, however. Earlier this month Enterprise Ireland announced €20 million in funding for the establishment of a National Functional Foods Research Centre. The new centre will bring together four of the biggest food groups in the country - Dairygold Food Ingredients, Glanbia Nutritionals, Carbery and Kerry Ingredients Ireland - to maximise the commercial value of milk.

The companies will work in conjunction with researchers from UCD, UCC, UL and Teagasc to enhance foods (including infant formula, dairy spreads, yogurts and cheese) with extra nutrients. Speaking at the launch, the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Mary Coughlan said the investment would "lead to the delivery of new high-value, innovative food products for the health conscious consumer".

Gov. Schwarzenegger signs law banning trans fats in restaurants

Gov. Schwarzenegger signs law banning trans fats in restaurants, Patrick McGreevy, Los Angeles Times (Jul. 25, 2008).

“California became the first state to require restaurants to cook without artery-clogging trans fats, such as those in many oils and margarines, under restrictions signed into law Friday by the health-conscious governor. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a physical-fitness advocate and crusader against obesity, sided with legislators who said the measure would help get the fat out of Californians who are too dependent on fast food.”

"California is a leader in promoting health and nutrition, and I am pleased to continue that tradition by being the first state in the nation to phase out trans fats," Schwarzenegger said. "Consuming trans fat is linked to coronary heart disease, and today we are taking a strong step toward creating a healthier future for California. . . .”

Under the new law, most California eateries must stop cooking with all but small amounts of trans fat by 2010. The California Restaurant Association opposed the legislation, but voiced confidence that members will meet the deadline. A copy of the law is available here.

California is seen as a leader in this matter, and it they are successful, we may seen the law copied by other states. However, I wonder if some form of restaurant nutrition labeling, particularly saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, and calories, might have been more effective in promoting better health. “Trans fat free” does not mean healthy.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Critical Report on Claims of Organic Food's Nutritional Superiority

A report by Dr. Joseph Rosen from Rutgers University, US, was published this week by the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) entitled "Claims of Organic Food's Nutritional Superiority: a Critical Review." Dr. Rosen analyzed a pro-organic report by Charles Benbrook and colleagues at the Organic Trade Association's Organic Center and found the data had been selectively chosen and presented to "prove" the desired point. When Dr. Rosen recalculated some of the organic data, correcting inaccuracies, he concluded that the conventional products were actually 2% more nutritious than the organic varieties. The complete report is available at: http://www.acsh.org/docLib/20080721_claims_of_organic_foods.pdf.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

When Beer is not Beer

The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (“TTB”) exercises jurisdiction over labeling of distilled spirits, wines, and malt beverages subject to the Federal Alcohol Administration Act (“FAA Act”), but FDA regulates the labeling of other alcohol beverages, such as wine coolers with less than seven percent alcohol by volume.

TTB issued a ruling clarifying that certain brewed products—which meet the definition of a “beer” under the Internal Revenue Code (IRC)—do not meet the definition of “malt beverages” under the FAA Act. The IRC broadly defines “beer” as “beer, ale, porter, stout, and other similar fermented beverages (including saké or similar products) of any name or description containing
one-half of 1 percent or more of alcohol by volume, brewed or produced from malt, wholly or in part, or from any substitute therefor.” On the other hand, the FAA Act defines “malt beverage” as a beverage made by the alcoholic fermentation of malted barley with hops, with or without other cereals and other carbohydrates.

Beers that do not conform to the definition of a “malt beverage” in the FAA Act are outside the scope of the FAA Act and, therefore, are not subject to the labeling, advertising, and other provisions of the TTB regulations under the FAA Act. This means that brewers and importers of such products are not required to obtain a certificate of label approval for these beers. However, such beverages are subject to FDA’s ingredient and other labeling requirements.

Sake and similar beverages—when they contain at least seven percent alcohol by volume—fall within the definition of “wine” under the FAA Act. Thus, those beverages continue to be subject to the requirements of the FAA Act.
Hat Tip to Ricardo Carvajal for his blog post on this topic Beer With Nutrition Labeling Becomes a Reality.

Improving Food Safety: Insights from Intensive Care

Paraphrasing Tom Sawyer, a person who takes a bull by the tail once, learns sixty or seventy times more than a person who hasn’t. Perhaps no one has seen the inside of as many intensive care units for foodborne illness as Bill Marler.

Gain some of Marler’s insight on improving food safety by reading his latest commentary, E. coli O157:H7 is a powerful and deadly bacterium. “You cannot see it, taste it, or smell it. 250,000 E. coli O157:H7 (E. coli) bacteria will fit on the head of a pin. Ten to 50 will kill your child or your grandmother.”

Make sure you read to through to the end of the “Might I suggest” section.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

GAO Report: Selected Countries' Systems Can Offer Insights

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a new report on July 14, "Food Safety: Selected Countries' Systems Can Offer Insights into Ensuring Import Safety and Responding to Foodborne Illness." (GAO-08-794, June 10.)

For the full report, click here.

For highlights, click here.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

FDA: Synthetic Ingredients May be "Natural"?

In a recent letter to the Corn Refiners Association, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stated that synthetically produced high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) may be labeled as “natural” under certain circumstances.

FDA longstanding policy on “natural” claims was, “not to restrict the use of the term ‘natural’ except for added color, synthetic substances, and flavors as provided in §101.22. Additionally, the agency will maintain its policy regarding the use of ‘natural,’ as meaning that nothing artificial or synthetic (including all color additives regardless of source) has been included in, or has been added to, a food that would not normally be expected to be in the food. Further, at this time the agency will continue to distinguish between natural and artificial flavors as outlined in §101.22.” 58 Fed. Reg. 2407 (Jan 6, 1993).

The July 3 FDA letter states that the agency would object to calling HFCS “natural,” if synthetic enzymes or synthetic processing aids remained in the final product. However, FDA does not object to synthetic HFCS being labeled as “natural” if no synthetic enzymes or processing aids end up in the final product.

Frankly, this is a tortuous interpretation. Unless you like dancing on a pin, I urge caution in applying this “clarification.”

Hat tip to Lynn Kuntz of Food Product Design for bringing this to my attention.

Dingell, Stupak Announce Hearing on FDA's Struggle with Salmonella Outbreak

Reps. John D. Dingell (D-MI), Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Bart Stupak, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, today announced plans to hold a hearing related to the Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Salmonella Saintpaul Outbreak: Concerns About FDA/CDC Lack of Trace Back The Control Group

Interesting comments from Jim Prevor, the Perishable Pundit at http://www.perishablepundit.com/index.php?date=7/03/08:

. . . It was good news to learn that CDC was basically starting anew and doing new survey work with people who became ill after June 1, 2008. This survey work would involve additional questions and presumably build on learning from inadequacies in the initial investigation of those who fell ill in April and May. . . .

What was shocking — and very disappointing for the produce industry — was word that even in this new investigation, CDC is not doing any traceback of the control group. This group consists of people similar in demographics to the ill people but who did not fall ill.

Our interview with Michael T. Osterholm PhD, M.P.H., focused on the necessity for doing traceback with the control group. Here is what Dr. Osterholm said:

…it is not biologically plausible to have Mexico and Florida both at the source of this outbreak. It epitomizes the ineptitude of the investigation. FDA and CDC should have obtained tomato product consumption information from both outbreak cases and controls. They needed to conduct full fledged tracebacks all the way back to the source not only of the sick cases but of the control group as well.

The epidemiology conducted to learn what product is associated with this outbreak by interviewing those sick and those not sick on what they were eating is a prerequisite but the epidemiology needed to go further. It was critical for the investigators to learn the locations of where both the cases and controls ate tomatoes and trace back from there.

When doing the traceback, you may come up with a few possibilities of where the tomatoes came from. If you collect data over time of the cases and controls, using the same methods to make the product association, you may find 85 percent of outbreak cases trace back to a certain field or grower, or re-packer versus the control product. Then you begin to get a much better handle on where product came from.

Q: Why did the government forego this strategy?

A: FDA and CDC have not made this a priority. They will never find a silver bullet by just tracing back a product. They’re looking for a cluster that matches up exactly with the one gun barrel. They’re under the false impression that they’re going to get a clean, clear-cut answer by finding the magic cluster. They need to do this case/control approach.

Now whatever happened with the initial investigation, whatever judgments or considerations were made, this much is beyond dispute: It didn’t work.

A quote attributed to Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again yet expecting different results. So surely CDC should be open to enhancing its methodology. Certainly there is no way that doing a traceback on the control group could hurt.

We have Dr. Osterholm, a highly credible person with extensive experience, saying this is a necessity. This is from a man who was doing traceback in Salmonella investigations on tomatoes a decade ago.

So, we have a methodology that has not been working, a highly credible source suggesting a specific improvement in that methodology, yet when asked, CDC gave a simple response of no, it is not tracing back the control group. . . .

This CDC also needs to consider its dismissive manner. An issue such as this merits an explanation. In light of the failure of the last traceback and the input from Dr. Osterholm, if CDC doesn’t want to do a traceback on the control group, it should have the decency to explain why to the general public.

Does CDC lack the resources required? Does it have a substantive disagreement with Dr. Osterholm?

The people at CDC are hired by the citizens of America to handle this portion of their affairs. A decent respect for the people who pay the bills requires CDC to be more transparent in its decision-making process..

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

IDFA Files Lawsuit to Stop Ohio's No-rBST Labeling Law

The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) filed a lawsuit against the State of Ohio challenging the state's new regulations regarding the labeling of dairy products from cows that have not been treated with artificial growth hormones. In the lawsuit, IDFA says the Ohio rule interferes with the First Amendment right of its members to communicate truthful information to Ohioans and with interstate commerce. “The practical effect of the Ohio rule silences manufacturers of dairy products and prevents Ohioans from knowing whether artificial growth hormones have been used in dairy products,” said Peggy Armstrong, IDFA communications director. To read the news release, click here. To view IDFA's complaint, motion and brief, click here.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Lou Dobbs: Bush Should Be Impeached for Salmonella Outbreak

An angry Lou Dobbs of CNN assailed the ineptitude of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and place the blame squarely on President George W. Bush, calling for his impeachment (reported by Jeff Poor, Business & Media Institute).

“You know, I have heard a lot of reasons over the years as to why George W. Bush should be impeached,” Dobbs said. “For them to leave the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in this state, its leadership in this sorry condition and to have no capacity apparently or will to protect the American consumer – that is alone to me sufficient reason to impeach a president who has made this agency possible and has ripped its guts out in its ability to protect the American consumer.”

On June 18, Dobbs called the FDA “excessively intellectually challenged.” The night before he called the FDA “moronic.”

“The FDA, led by complete moronic, unengaged incompetents,” Dobbs said on his June 17 broadcast. “The idea that they would sit there and say that they’re not going to reveal where a cluster of this outbreak occurred, this is arrogant beyond belief. Who in the world do these idiots think they are? Who do they think they’re working for?”

Thursday, June 05, 2008

CSPI Proposes ban on Some Artificial Food Dyes

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has petitioned the FDA to ban the artificial food dyes Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Red 3, Red 40, Blue 1, Blue 2, Green 3, and Orange B because they may cause hyperactivity and other behavioral problems in some children. You can see a CBS Evening News segment on this topic here.

Synthetic food dyes have been controversial for decades, but not until recently had any studies shown adverse effects. Information on three recent studies on food dyes and behavior are at available here on CSPI’s website.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Enhancing State and Local Roles in Food Safety - Public Symposium June 17, 2008

The symposium kicks off a new project in which three national organizations representing state and local food safety and health officials – The Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO), the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), and the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) – will collaborate with The George Washington University (GWU) School of Public Health and Health Services to forge an updated agenda for enhancing the contribution state and local agencies make to the nation’s food safety system. The project is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and is being coordinated by GWU research professor Michael R. Taylor.

Confirmed speakers at the June 17 symposium include USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Richard Raymond, FDA Associate Commissioner for Regulatory Affairs Margaret Glavin, state and local food safety regulators (Joe Corby of New York and David Ludwig of Maricopa County, Arizona), state and local health officials (David Bergmire-Sweat of North Carolina and Joseph Russell of Flathead County, Montana), David Gombas of United Fresh Produce Association, Bob Brackett of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, and Caroline Smith DeWaal of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Two additional workshops will be hosted by ASTHO, NACCHO, and AFDO over the summer to develop specific proposals for enhancing state and local roles in foodborne illness surveillance, outbreak response, food safety regulation and inspection at state and local levels.

In October 2008, the proposals developed at the workshops, which could include changes in law, policy, programs and resources, as well as other ideas for building a more effective, nationally integrated food safety system, will be discussed at a second public symposium in Washington for all interested stakeholders.

The June 17 symposium will be held from 8:30 am-12:30 pm in the Media and Public Affairs Building on the GWU campus in Washington, D.C., at 21st and H St., NW. The MPA building is located three blocks from the Foggy Bottom Metro Station on the Orange/Blue lines.

Please RSVP to foodsafety@gwumc.edu by June 10 if you would like to attend. If you have any questions, please contact Stephanie David at Stephanie.David@gwumc.edu.

Harnessing Knowledge to Ensure Food Safety

The Food Safety Research Consortium (FSRC) released a new report that calls for sweeping changes in the way food safety information is collected and shared. The report, “Harnessing Knowledge to Ensure Food Safety: Opportunities to Improve the Nation’s Food Safety Information Infrastructure,” was written by Michael Taylor (George Washington University) and Michael Batz (University of Florida) with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Some key findings include:

· System-wide improvement in how food safety information is collected and shared is essential to achieving the vision of a risk-based, preventive system in the Food and Drug Administration’s Food Protection Plan and in most of the food safety bills being developed in Congress.

· This lack of coordination is a consequence of the highly decentralized nature of the food safety system, built-in obstacles to data sharing in many government and private organizations and the lack of incentives and means for organizations and individuals to help meet the information needs of the system as a whole.

To address these problems, the authors recommend the following:

· Establish a national policy making it the duty of all federal agencies to better coordinate information collection, consider the information needs of the system as a whole, and maximize information sharing among all levels of government and with the private sector.

· Establish a forum to foster communication and collaboration among government, industry, consumers and academia to solve food safety information problems.

· Give high priority to enhancing the nation’s investment in food safety epidemiology and making the collection and sharing of epidemiological data more responsive to the needs of regulators, the food industry and consumers.

· Use the Web to connect dispersed databases and electronic networks in order to make it easier for those seeking food safety information to find it.

· Do a better job of prioritizing information collection and making valuable data generated by academic researchers and private firms more readily available to others in the food safety system.

· Provide adequate public resources to implement the new food safety information policy and program.

The full report and executive summary are available from the FSRC Web site at: http://www.thefsrc.org/FSII/events.htm.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Bisphenol A Report

The Congressional Research Service released Bisphenol A (BPA) in Plastics and Possible Human Health Effects, available at http://assets.opencrs.com/rpts/RS22869_20080505.pdf.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Who's Minding the Store: The Current State of Food Safety and How It Can be Improved

A number of people have asked for more information on the conference, Who's Minding the Store: The Current State of Food Safety and How It Can be Improved. Marler Clark has put the PowerPoint presentations from the conference on their website here.

I have attended a great many conferences, and this one was a stand out. Hats off to William Marler, Marler Clark LLP PS, Kenneth M. Odza, Stoel Rives LLP, and the Seattle University School of Law!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Is the Green Fairy a Myth?

David Bradley posted an interesting piece, Arty with a Capital F and the Myth of Absinthe, concerning absinthe’s legendary psychotropic effects. Sometimes called the “Green Fairy” or the “Green Muse,” in part because of its typical green color, absinthe has become associated with artists, writers, and Bohemian culture of late 19th- and early 20th-century Paris.

A recent article in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry compares modern day absinthe with pre-ban (before 1915) absinthe. “The authors conclude that the thujone concentration of preban absinthe was generally overestimated in the past. The analysis of postban (1915–1988) and modern commercial absinthes (2003–2006) showed that the encompassed thujone ranges of all absinthes are quite similar, disproving the supposition that a fundamental difference exists between preban and modern absinthes manufactured according to historical recipes. Analyses of pinocamphone, fenchone, base spirits, copper, and antimony were inconspicuous. All things considered, nothing besides ethanol was found in the absinthes that was able to explain the syndrome ‘absinthism’.”

I have to take issue with the wording of the final conclusion, however, as it seems overbroad. The legend of absinthe’s psychotropic properties may exceed reality. However, the authors of this recent study only tested for a limited number of chemicals. Absinthe contains essences from a number of herbs that have long been recognized for medicinal properties, such as common wormwood (Artemisia absinthium L.), anise (Pimpinella anisum L.), hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis L.), and Florence fennel (Foeniculum Vulgare Mill.). The pharmacological properties of the mix remains a scientific mystery.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

GlaxoSmithKline Petitions FDA to Prohibit Weight Loss Structure/Function Claims

GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare (GSK) and others submitted a citizen petition to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) asking the agency to prohibit weight-loss structure/function claims for dietary supplements. In addition to prohibiting weight loss claims, the petition asks FDA to prohibit claims for energy expenditure, modulation of carbohydrate metabolism, increased satiety or suppression of appetite, increased fat oxidation or reduced fat synthesis, and blockage of fat absorption.

FDA’s longstanding position has been that weight loss claims are permissible structure/function claims. However, the petition urges FDA to change its position on the ground that: (1) recent evidence establishes that overweight is a risk factor for disease; (2) consumers believe that there is a relationship between weight loss and a reduction of risk of disease; (3) claims that a product will reduce a risk factor for disease are disease claims; (4) the use of ineffective therapies can divert consumers from safe and effective therapies such as GSK’s weight loss drug Alli; and (5) manufacturers of weight loss supplements should be forced to substantiate their claims through health claim petitions before going to market.

Hat tip to Ricardo Carvajal for this information.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Fixing Food Safety: Protecting America's Food Supply from Farm-to-Fork

The Trust for America's Health (TFAH) released a new report that identifies major gaps in the nation's food safety system, including obsolete laws, misallocation of resources, and inconsistencies among major food safety agencies.

"Our goal should be reducing the number of Americans who get sick from foodborne illness. But we can't adequately protect people from contaminated foods if we continue to use 100 year-old practices," said Jeff Levi, PhD, Executive Director of TFAH. "We need to bring food safety into the 21st century. We have the technology. We're way past due for a smart and strategic upgrade."

The complete report, Fixing Food Safety: Protecting America's Food Supply from Farm-to-Fork is available at: http://healthyamericans.org/reports/foodsafety08/FoodSafety08.pdf

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Tyson Foods Enjoined from Claiming "Raised Without Antibiotics"

Sanderson Farms and Perdue Farms v. Tyson Foods
U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland
Civil Case No. RDB-08-210 (April 22, 2008)
Opinion by U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett

The U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland issued a preliminary injunction against Tyson Foods from continuing advertising claiming that the company’s chicken is “Raised Without Antibiotics.” The Court found that Tyson uses ionophores (types of antibiotics that are not used in human medicines and therefore present “only a miniscule threat to antibiotic resistance in humans”) in its chicken feed. The Court also found that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) erroneously approved Tyson’s “Raised Without Antibiotics” label application in May, 2007. The company was informed of the error in September 2007 and told USDA would revoke the prior approval for the label. In December, USDA approved Tyson’s application for a new label with qualifying language: “Raised Without Antibiotics that impact antibiotic resistance in humans.” But Tyson continued its advertising campaign with the unqualified “Raised Without Antibiotics” claim and un-approved variations of the qualified claim, leading Sanderson and Perdue to file suit. The Court concluded that Tyson’s advertising labels were misleading to consumers, including the qualifying language regarding antibiotic resistance in humans. The Court noted that the phrase, ‘that impact antibiotic resistance in humans,’ is not understood by a substantial portion of the consumer public…[and] may even reinforce consumer misconception. … The public interest compels that this advertising stop and that a preliminary injunction be issued in this case.”

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Food Labeling Workshop July 23-24, 2008

This workshop presents the FDA requirements for US food labeling. The workshop format and materials are designed to provide a user-friendly approach for those new to food labeling and also provide a thorough system and reference for those experienced with food label design and review. The workshop format allows time for questions. The focus is practical, and students are encouraged to bring problem labels for hands-on review. For more information, click here.

Early bird discount (before May 15, 2008): $795

Monday, April 21, 2008

In Lean Times, Biotech Grains Are Less Taboo

       People tend to magnify their concerns over risks when there is no practical cost to doing so. Similarly, when there is no direct burden to them, people tend to take “better safe than sorry” as their overarching principle.
       This approach makes sense in many situations. Unfortunately, this shorthand approach creates the illusion that real risk assessment has been applied. When there is no personal stake in the costs, for example, benefits are overlooked and risks and benefits are not balanced.
       With rising food prices and grain shortages looming, perhaps we will see more balanced assessments of genetic modifications.
Soaring food prices and global grain shortages are bringing new pressures on governments, food companies and consumers to relax their longstanding resistance to genetically engineered crops.
In Japan and South Korea, some manufacturers for the first time have begun buying genetically engineered corn for use in soft drinks, snacks and other foods. Until now, to avoid consumer backlash, the companies have paid extra to buy conventionally grown corn. But with prices having tripled in two years, it has become too expensive to be so finicky. . . .