Neil Mermelstein

Neil H. Mermelstein

Crawford named FDA Deputy Commissioner
Lester M. Crawford was named deputy commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration on February 25. He will be the senior official at FDA, pending the installment of a permanent Commissioner of Food and Drugs. He most recently served as head of the Center for Food and Nutrition Policy at Virginia Tech. He also previously served as administrator of USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service and director of FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine.

Nutrition labeling data update proposed
The Food and Drug Administration is proposing to amend the voluntary nutrition labeling regulations by updating the names and the nutrition labeling values for the 20 most frequently consumed raw fruits, vegetables, and fish in the U.S. Deadline for comments is June 3. Details are in the Federal Register of March 20 (67 FR 12918-12937). For more information, contact Lori LeGault at FDA, 5100 Paint Branch Pkwy., College Park, MD 20740-3835 (phone 301-436-1791).

Reallocation of menhaden oil uses proposed
FDA, in response to a petition from the National Fish Meal and Oil Association, is proposing to reallocate the uses of menhaden oil in food, while maintaining the total daily intake of EPA and DHA from menhaden oil at a level not exceeding 3.0 g/person/day. Deadline for comments is May 13. Details are in the Federal Register of February 26 (67 FR 8744-8748). For more information, contact Lawrence J. Lin at FDA, 5100 Paint Branch Pkwy., College Park, MD 20740-3835 (phone 202-418-3103).

USDA continues to work on food safety
Elsa Murano, USDA’s Under Secretary for Food Safety, testified before the House Agriculture Committee on Appropriations on March 18 that the department continues to strengthen meat, poultry, and egg food safety. She said that USDA’s fiscal year 2003 budget request for food safety provides $905 million to fund 7,600 inspectors, veterinarians, and other food safety officials who safeguard the nation’s meat and poultry supply. It also calls for new spending to strengthen research activities, improve the quality of scientific data on animal disease-based threats to public health, expand risk prevention and management education for small and very small meat, poultry and egg producers; and upgrade the agency’s information and communication systems. She also said that USDA will host a series of public symposia this year on pathogen reduction and microbial testing. Nine forums are scheduled, including a two-day food safety and scientific symposium in May, with several others to follow.

Additional irradiation proposal issued
USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is proposing additional changes related to a proposed rule to allow use of irradiation as a phytosanitary treatment against fruit flies and the mango seed weevil on fruits and vegetables imported into the U.S. The supplemental proposal concerns the use of radiation indicators on packaging of irradiated articles and additional provisions for monitoring foreign irradiation facilities. Deadline for comments is April 15. Details are in the Federal Register of March 15 (67 FR 11610-11614). For more information, contact Donna L. West at USDA/APHIS, 4700 River Road, Unit 147, Riverdale, MD 20737-1237 (phone 301-734-7710).

Ratites and squabs inspection affirmed
USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service is affirming its May 7, 2001, interim final rule requiring inspection of the slaughtering and processing of ratites and squabs. FSIS is also allowing foreign countries an additional 12 months to become equivalent for exporting ratites or squabs to the U.S. Details are in the Federal Register of March 22 (67 FR 13253-13259). For more information, contact Robert Ragland at USDA/FSIS, 300 12th St., S.W., Washington, DC 20250-3700 (phone 202-720-3219).

Agencies disagree with BSE report
A February 27 General Accounting Office report (see www.gao.gov/daybook/020226.htm) said that the continuing absence of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in the U.S. today cannot be sufficiently ensured by current federal prevention efforts. USDA and FDA responded, saying that the report fails to appropriately recognize the conclusions and recommendations made last year by Harvard University in its comprehensive 3-year study on BSE. She said that the Harvard Risk Analysis showed that the risk of BSE occurring in the U.S. is extremely low and that early government protection systems have been largely responsible for keeping BSE out of the U.S. and would prevent it from spreading if it ever did enter the country. More information is available at www.aphis/usda.gov.

by NEIL H. MERMELSTEIN
Editor

About the Author

IFT Fellow
Editor Emeritus of Food Technology
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Neil Mermelstein