Neil Mermelstein

Neil H. Mermelstein

Funding proposed for USDA biosecurity activities
Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman announced on October 19 that President Bush has proposed the allocation of $45.2 million to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture as part of a $20 billion submission to Congress for emergency funding to strengthen essential programs and services related to biosecurity issues. The funding would support enhanced security for USDA facilities ($17.2 million); design and construction of a satellite facility at the USDA laboratory in Ames, Iowa, for research activities ($14.1 million); technical assistance to state, local, federal, and private-sector entities to improve biosecurity ($5.0 million); and education and training to strengthen response mechanisms to potential food supply threats, improve data collection and dissemination, and other biosecurity activities ($8.9 million).

Sterol/stanol esters health claim comment period reopened
The Food and Drug Administration has reopened until November 19 the comment period for its interim final rule authorizing a health claim for the association between plant sterol/stanol esters and reduced risk of coronary heart disease. Details are in the Federal Register of October 5 (66 FR 50824-50826). For more information, contact James Hoadley at FDA, 200 C St., S.W., Washington, DC 20204 (phone 202-205-5429).

Grants address foodborne disease risk programs
FDA announced on October 18 that it has awarded grants totaling $500,000 to 13 programs sponsored by state and local regulatory agencies that address the risks of foodborne disease in various settings. The awards are for a one-year period and are focused on two key areas: inspection techniques and education/health information dissemination.

Groups seek postponement of water retention rules
Four meat and poultry trade associations have asked USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service to postpone until August 1, 2004, the effective date of new regulations that limit water retained by raw meat and poultry products from post-evisceration processing to the amount that is unavoidable in meeting applicable food safety requirements. The American Meat Institute, National Chicken Council, National Food Processors Association, and National Turkey Federation assert that the postponement is necessary because affected companies will not be able to comply with the regulations until they have completed several steps for which the agency did not allow sufficient time. Deadline for comments is November 16. Details are in the Federal Register of October 17 (66 FR 52715-52721). For more information, contact Daniel L. Engeljohn at USDA/FSIS, Washington, DC 20250-3700 (phone 202-720-3219).

Electronic notification system launched
FSIS announced on September 24 that it has launched a new notification system that will provide electronic status reports on testing samples taken from meat, poultry, and egg product establishments. The Laboratory Electronic Application for Results Notification (LEARN) system allows FSIS field personnel, agency staff, establishments, and state officials, to electronically monitor information on species identification, food chemistry, microbiological samples, and completed Salmonella/HACCP sets. The system automatically tracks each sample as it is received, analyzed, and the results are reported. Sample status information is automatically updated several times each day.

Scale accuracy rule clarified
FSIS is amending its regulations governing the certification for accuracy of scales used in federally inspected meat and poultry establishments. Official establishments may rely on state or local certification or data from documented procedures that demonstrate compliance with the National Institute of Standards and Technology Handbook 44. Details are in the Federal Register of October 16 (66 FR 52484-52486). For more information, contact Daniel L. Engeljohn at USDA/FSIS, Washington, DC 20250-3700 (phone 202-720-5627).

Food safety teaching program developed
FDA and the National Science Teachers Association have developed a program, “Science and Our Food Supply,” designed to teach middle and high school students about food safety and careers in food science. The program is offered free to science educators. Teachers may request the program via the NSTA Web site at or by writing to NSTA, 1840 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, VA 22201-3000.


About the Author

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