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FDA seeks comments on qualified health claims
The Food and Drug Administration announced has issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking to request public comment on several topics involving qualified health claims and other potential initiatives to help consumers choose a healthy diet. Qualified health claims are claims that are not supported by significant scientific agreement. FDA is soliciting comments in three broad areas: alternatives for regulating health claims that do not meet the significant scientific agreement standard; other issues related to health claims, including data and research on a substance/disease relationship; and dietary guidance statements on conventional food and dietary supplement labels. Deadline for comments is January 26, 2004. Details are in the Federal Register of November 25 (68 FR 66040–66048).
USDA to unify research efforts
On November 19, Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman announced a unified food safety research agenda to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of food safety programs within the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. USDA also released a list of additional research needs specific to meat, poultry, and egg products that the Food Safety and Inspection Service will encourage non-governmental entities to address. The unified agenda prioritizes research needs and maximizes use of available resources. The unified food safety research agenda is available at www.reeusda.gov/ree/pdf/foodsaf_research.pdf, and the research priorities specific to meat, poultry, and egg products is available at www.fsis.usda.gov/.
FDA posts guide on BSE feed ban inspections
FDA has announced the availability of a compliance program guidance manual entitled “Bovine Spongiform Encepholopathy/Ruminant Feed Ban Inspections.” This manual is intended to assist investigators in determining compliance with the FDA regulation prohibiting the use of specified animal proteins in ruminant feeds (21 CFR 589.2000). The purpose of this regulation is to prevent the establishment and/or amplification within the United States of BSE, a fatal degenerative nerve disease of cattle. More information is available at www.fda.gov/cvm/default.html.
Mad cow disease risk low in the U.S.
A study by the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis at the Harvard School of Public Health, assessing the likelihood of mad cow disease (BSE) spreading in the U.S. cattle population, confirms the findings of the initial analysis done in 2001—that even if infected animals or contaminated ruminant feed material entered the American animal agriculture system from Canada, the risk of mad cow disease spreading extensively within the American herd would be low, and that any possible spread would by now have been reversed by controls put in place in the late 1990s. The new study was initiated at the request of USDA following discovery in summer 2003 of a Canadian cow infected with BSE. More information is available at www.hsph.harvard.edu/press/releases/press10312003.html.
FDA official to head WHO Nutrition Project
Christine Taylor, Director of FDA’s Office of Nutritional Products, Labeling, and Dietary Supplements, has been chosen to head a special project on nutrition issues for the World Health Organization. In the two-year assignment which begins in January, she will develop approaches to help WHO assess food-related health risks by creating nutrition risk-analysis models. More information is available at www.fda.gov/bbs/topics/NEWS/2003/NEW00977.html.
USDA to assist food fortification program
USDA’s Agricultural Research Service expertise in an emerging technique for naturally fortifying food crops will be a central part of a program launched this month to tackle malnutrition in developing countries. The program, HarvestPlus, will emphasize the innovative method called biofortification, which makes staple foods inherently more nutritious. Researchers will identify and develop crops with increased levels of key nutrients and make these crop varieties widely available throughout entire regions. HarvestPlus is managed by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, a Washington, D.C.-based consortium of donors devoted to agricultural advancements in the developing world. More information is available at www.harvestplus.org.
by JAMES GIESE