USDA approves irradiation of meat
The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture announced on Dec. 14 that it has approved use of irradiation of refrigerated or frozen raw meat and meat products to significantly reduce or eliminate Escherichia coli O157:H7 and other hazardous microorganisms. The rule, to be published in the Federal Register the week of Dec. 20, will take effect 60 days after publication. Irradiated products must still meet all other food safety requirements, including sanitation and pathogen reduction standards. Irradiated products, including irradiated meat used in other products such as sausages and bologna, must bear the radura symbol and a statement that the product was treated by irradiation. For unpackaged meat products, the statement and logo must be displayed at the point of sale to consumers. These labeling requirements do not apply to products purchased through foodservice operations, such as restaurants. Also, USDA is streamlining the approval process for food additives by ending the requirement that food additives be approved separately by both the Food and Drug Administration and USDA.
Food safety strategic plan meeting scheduled
USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, FDA, and the Environmental Protection Agency will hold a public meeting on Jan. 19 to discuss the President’s Council on Food Safety’s draft strategic plan to reduce acute and chronic foodborne and waterborne illness by further enhancing the safety of the nation’s food supply. The strategic plan is available via the Internet at www.foodsafety.gov. Deadline for comments is Feb. 14. Details are in the Federal Register of Dec. 15 (64 FR 70167-70171). For more information, contact R. Tynan (phone 202-205-7393) or I. Gambrell (202-501-7260).
Egg safety plan developed
On. Dec. 11, President Clinton announced a comprehensive action plan to further improve the safety of eggs and reduce by 50% Salmonella enteritidis illnesses in the U.S. by 2005. Egg producers and processors must improve egg safety by (1) rigorous on-farm agricultural and sanitation practices, extensive testing for S. enteritidis, and diversion of positive eggs to pasteurization or cooked product, or (2) implementation of new technologies, such as in-shell pasteurization, at the packer stage of production. FDA will develop nationwide onfarm preventive controls and enforce them by contracting with the states while maintaining federal oversight. FSIS will develop and enforce standards at the packer/processor level. FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will conduct surveillance and monitoring activities. The egg safety action plan is available via the Internet at www.foodsafety.gov.
Dietary supplement health claims to be revisited
FDA, in response to an appeals court decision, plans to reopen the comment period regarding four dietary supplement health claims: dietary fiber and cancer, antioxidant vitamins and cancer, omega-3 fatty acids and coronary heart disease, and the claim that 0.8 mg of folic acid in dietary supplement form is more effective in reducing the risk of neural tube defects than a lower amount in conventional food form. Details are in the Federal Register of Dec.1 (64 FR 67289-67291). For more information, contact M.B. Steadman at FDA, 5600 Fishers Ln., Rockville, MD 20852 (phone 301-827-6733).
Comment period for juice HACCP proposal extended
FDA is extending until Jan. 24 the deadline for comments on its April 24, 1998, proposal to require the application of HACCP principles to the processing of fruit and vegetable juices and juice products. Details are in the Federal Register of Nov. 23 (64 FR 65669-65671). For more information, contact S. Anderson at FDA, 200 C St., S.W., Washington, DC 20204 (phone 202-205-5023).
FSIS extends E. coli testing to additional species
FSIS is requiring establishments that slaughter sheep, goats, equines, ducks, geese, and guineas to test for generic Escherichia coli to verify the adequacy of process controls for the prevention and removal of fecal contamination and associated bacteria. The testing requirements already apply to establishments that slaughter cattle, swine, chickens, and turkeys. Details are in the Federal Register of Nov. 29 (64 FR 66547-66553). For more information, contact D.L. Engeljohn At USDA/FSIS, Washington, DC 20250-3700 (phone 202-720-5627).
FSIS details enforcement actions
FSIS has issued a final rule defining the enforcement actions it may take against meat or poultry plants that do not meet inspection regulations, i.e., whose products are not wholesome, are adulterated, or are improperly marked, labeled, and packaged. Details are in the Federal Register of Nov. 29 (64 FR 66541-66547). For more information, contact D.L. Engeljohn At USDA/FSIS, Washington, DC 20250-3700 (phone 202-720-5627).
by NEIL H. MERMELSTEIN