U.S. FDA Says It Will Try to Resume Some Food Inspections

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“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will be restarting high-risk food inspections as early as Tuesday — a process many Americans may not have even known was halted.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced via Twitter the plan to resume high-risk probes on Monday afternoon, adding that “we started sampling high-risk imported produce in the northeast region today. We’ll expand our footprint as the week progresses. Our teams are working.”

The work is “being done by an inspectorate that’s largely going unpaid,” during the government shutdown, he added.”

See more here.

FSMA Status Update: Compliance Requirements and Upcoming Deadlines

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“One of the most notable pieces of federal legislation addressing food safety in the past century, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), was enacted on Jan. 4, 2011 — amending section 415 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act). Companies that manufacture, process, pack, or store food, including coffee, must comply.

The FSMA requires companies in the United States with these food facilities to submit additional registration information to the FDA. It also requires companies to renew the registration on a biennial basis, providing the FDA with authority to suspend the registration of a food facility in certain circumstances.”

View more here.

FDA Issues Salt Guidelines

Last Wednesday, the FDA took another step is pushing back the American diet to its more healthful days; the Administration issued draft guidelines with voluntary targets for salt reduction.  The hope is to reduce salt intake from an average 3,400 milligrams per day to 3,000 milligrams in two years and down to 2,300 milligrams in a decade.

The proposal comes with “overwhelming” scientific evidence and would purportedly saved thousands of lives in the years to come.  “Today’s announcement is about putting power back in the hands of consumers, so that they can better control how much salt is in the food they eat and improve their health,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 70 percent of the sodium consumed in the country is already in food before it reaches the table.

“The majority of sodium intake comes from processed and prepared foods, not the saltshaker,” noted the F.D.A. statement.

However, some scientists have an opposing opinion: David A. McCarron, a research associate in the Department of Nutrition at the University of California, Davis, said a number of studies had shown risks of too little salt. “Going below 3,000 [mg] is dangerous — that’s what the data has shown,” said Professor McCarron, who has consulted for the food industry.

But F.D.A. scientists said the health advantages of getting down to the recommended 2,300 milligrams a day were beyond dispute. The science has been well vetted,said Susan Mayne, director of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition at the F.D.A.

To read more, click here and here.

Nutrition Labels Get FDA-Approved Recipe

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Last week, Michelle Obama made a monumental speech to usher in significant change to the world of packaged foods. The nutrition facts labels are getting a major makeover.  From Oreos to milk, food manufacturers will have two years to comply with the changes.  Here is what to expect:

  • Larger, bolder type for calories and serving size
  • Changes to serving sizes to be more accurate with consumption and packaging
  • Added line to delineate added sugars
  • Additional Nutrients required

While many nutritionists and dietitians see the changes as a great step in the right direction, industry trade groups are speaking up with concerns.  For example, the American Bakers Association is perusing the full 943-page document and has already flagged issues with the timing, definition of dietary fiber, and added sugars.

Additionally, the Grocery Manufacturers Association said the update was due as eating habits have changed.  However, they also have concerns that the new label may cause some confusion and that education will be necessary.

To read more, click here and click here for the FDA’s overview of changes.

New FDA Menu-Labeling Regulations

Ever since the Affordable Care Act was passed, menu-labeling rules have been under development. The Food and Drug Administration is now ready to go forth with some new menu-labeling rules that have an as underlying intention to send reminders to the consumers that certain foods are unhealthy: as of November 2015 all restaurants with at least 20 locations will be required to post calorie counts, with other information such as fat and carbs available upon request.

These new FDA rules will also apply to coffee shops, bakeries, movie theaters, grocery stores, convenience stores, and even vending-machine operators, who will all have two years to get their act together to comply. Units that are exempt include airlines, trains and multi-unit food trucks. Some exceptions will be made for large chains such as Pizza Hut who will be able to post calorie counts by the slice rather than by the pie given that the menu can extend to over 2 billion possible combinations. Seasonal menu items and condiments are also exempt from the new rule.

To read more about the new FDA menu-labeling rules that will be put into action in a years time, click here

New FDA Definition of “Gluten-Free”

According to the researcher Packaged Facts, the gluten-free food market in the USA will grown from $4.2 billion in 2012 to $6.6 by 2017. Although less than 1% of Americans have the disorder that would require a completely gluten-free diet, close to 1 in 3 people will abstain from gluten according to the trend watcher NDP Group. An analyst at Rabobank, a Dutch bank that is a global leader in Food and Agri-financing, has commented that, “Consumers, rightly or wrongly, have made a connection between gluten-free and healthy..Grain companies are hoping this trend crashes and burns sooner rather than later. But any trend is a marketing opportunity.”

Up until now an official definition of what qualifies a food item as gluten-free hasn’t existed. The Food and Drug Administration has now created an official definition to make those suffering from celiac disease and others who try to abstain from gluten products easier to identify. Packaged foods will be considered gluten-free if they contain less than 20 parts of the protein per million per kilogram; this is the smallest quantity that can be measured reliably and the FDA claims 95% of food that is labeled as such meets this criterion. This rule, however, does not apply to alcohol or beer, nor does it apply to restaurants but the FDA is trying to encourage more and more restaurant chains to meet the specific standards of a public-health service.

There is no new logo or FDA label for the gluten-free products that manufacturers have to use, it suffices that a variation of the words “gluten-free” appear on the FDA approved package. To read more about how the new FDA definition of gluten-free products will impact manufacturers and consumers alike, click here

 

FDA Regulations on Artisanal Cheese Aging Process

A request was made for clarification from the FDA on their view on aging cheese on wooden boards. An FDA official responded that cheese shouldn’t in fact be aged on wooden boards without realizing the impact this would have on the cheese business. Within a couple of days the FDA retreated the statement due to the backlash of the press and the general panic of artisanal cheese makers.

Although the artisanal cheese business is quite small the potential regulation still would have had an enormous impact on their production. There is no indication however that this aging process which has been used for centuries could be harmful to our health. Critics of the FDA believe that more time should be spent focusing on bigger food production businesses that could pose more widespread threats rather than meddling with artisanal producers.

What started as a request for guidance on a policy created a stir that now may even go through congress. A Vermont Democrat, Peter Welch, has proposed an amendment that would prevent the FDA from banning the use of wooden boards in the cheese aging process. To read more about the issue and how people are getting involved click here