Neil Mermelstein

Neil H. Mermelstein

Agencies launch new food safety information lines
The Food and Drug Administration announced on Sept. 9 the opening of its new Outreach and Information Center, operated by its Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. In addition to providing food safety information to consumers, the center will provide assistance with other CFSAN issues, including food additives and dietary supplements. The center (phone 888-SAFEFOOD) features a digital technology system including more than 200 hours of newly recorded information and more than 100 documents via fax and the Internet. In addition, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service on Sept. 28 announced the launching of its new Regulator’s Food Safety Information Line for state food and public health agencies. The new service (phone 800-233-3935) will answer food safety questions related to meat, poultry, and egg products. The information staff will respond to technical or regulatory questions on raising animals for food, slaughtering animals, processing products from those animals, and handling those products during transportation, storage, retail, and foodservice operations.

FDA lists priorities for international activities on food safety
FDA has announced the availability of a draft agenda, presenting CFSAN’s international priorities for the next three years (2000–2002) regarding those areas where it is critical for the safety and regulation of foods and/or cosmetics that the center maintain a strong presence. Details are in the Federal Register of Sept. 17 (64 FR 50518–50519). For more information, contact J.W. Jones at FDA, 200 C St., S.W., Washington, DC 20204 (phone 202-205-4311).

NAS to review USDA’s regulatory process regarding biotech plants
USDA announced on Sept. 29 that the National Academy of Sciences will undertake an independent, ongoing, scientific review of USDA’s regulatory process for biotechnology-derived plants. A 15-member standing committee will in its first year examine the environmental impacts associated with commercialization of biotechnology-derived plants and provide guidance on how best to assess and mitigate those risks. USDA plans to establish regional centers around the country to evaluate biotech products over a long period of time and to provide information on an ongoing basis to growers, consumers, researchers, and regulators.

CDC’s list of diseases unchanged
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has published its annual update of the list of infectious and communicable diseases that are transmitted through handling the food supply and the methods by which they are transmitted. The list is unchanged from last year. Pathogens that can cause diseases after an infected person handles food are Caliciviruses (Norwalk and Norwalk-like viruses), Hepatitis A virus, Salmonella typhi, Shigella species, Staphylococcus aureus, and Streptococcus pyogenes. Preventing food contact by persons who have an acute diarrheal illness will decrease the risk of transmitting Campylobacter jejuni, Cryptosporidium parvum, Entamoeba histolytica, Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli, Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli, Giardia lamblia, Nontyphoidal Salmonella, Rotavirus, Taenia solium, Vibrio cholerae 01, and Yersinia enterocolitica. Details are in the Federal Register of Sept. 21 (64 FR 51127). For more information, contact A.P. Liang at CDC, 1600 Clifton Rd., N.E., Atlanta, GA 30333 (phone 404-639-2213).

FDA to sponsor workshops on antimicrobial resistance in food animals
FDA will hold two public workshops in Rockville, Md., on antimicrobial resistance in food-producing animals. “Risk Assessment and the Establishment of Resistance Thresholds Workshop,” on Dec. 9–10, will discuss FDA’s model for evaluating the risk to human health from resistant foodborne pathogens associated with the use of antimicrobials in food-producing animals, and its use in establishing resistance and monitoring thresholds in food-producing animals. “Preapproval Studies in Antimicrobial Resistance,” on Feb. 22–23, will discuss design of preapproval studies in food-producing animals to model the rate and extent of resistance development. Details are in the Federal Register of Sept. 27 (64 FR 52099–52100). For more information, contact L.W. Cowatch at FDA, 7500 Standish Pl., Rockville, MD 20855 (phone 301-827-5281).

Changes in frozen okra grade standards proposed
USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service is proposing to change the grade standards for frozen okra to provide for the “individual attributes” procedure for product grading and replace dual-grade nomenclature with single-letter grade designations. Deadline for comments is Nov. 29. Details are in the Federal Register of Sept. 28 (64 FR 52266). For more information, contact H.A. Machias at USDA/AMS, P.O. Box 96456, Washington, DC 20090-4693 (phone 202-720-5021).

by NEIL H. MERMELSTEIN
Senior Editor

About the Author

IFT Fellow
Editor Emeritus of Food Technology
[email protected]
Neil Mermelstein