James Giese

Food safety legislation introduced
On May 27, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Ranking Member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, introduced legislation that seeks to protect consumers from pathogens in meat and poultry. The Meat and Poultry Pathogen Reduction Act of 2003, known as “Kevin’s Law,” would give the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture the authority to enforce food safety and sanitation standards that have been under serious attack in the federal courts. The bill is named after Kevin Kowalcyk of Mount Horeb, Wis., who died in 2001 at the age of 2½ from Escherichia coli poisoning. A companion bill was released in the House by Congressmen Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Phil English (R-PA). The law would give USDA the authority to enforce existing standards for pathogens such as Salmonella and E. coli. It requires USDA to set standards for the foodborne pathogens based on the best available science and reasonably available technology to reduce contamination.

FSIS issues interim final rule on Listeria controls
USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service is requiring official establishments that produce ready-to-eat meat and poultry products that are exposed to the environment after lethality treatments and that support the growth of Listeria monocytogenes to have controls that prevent product adulteration by L. monocytogenes. The interim final rule is effective on Oct. 6, 2003. Deadline for comments is August 5. Recognizing, however, that some approaches to L. monocytogenes control set out in this interim final rule are novel, FSIS will accept comments on the rule until December 8, 2004, for the purpose of reviewing and evaluating the effectiveness of these approaches. For more information, see the Federal Register of June 6 (68 FR 34207-34254).

USDA seeks comments on Codex standards
USDA has posted a notice about the sanitary and phytosanitary standard-setting activities of the Codex Alimentarius Commission. The agency is seeking comments on the Codex standards currently under consideration and recommendations for new standards. Documents pertaining to Codex are accessible at www.codexalimentarius.net. The U.S. Codex Office also maintains a Web site at www.fsis.usda.gov/OA/Codex/index.htm. For more information, see the Federal Register of June 4 (68 FR 33444-33460).

USDA and NASA form research partnership
On June 2, USDA and NASA signed a memorandum of understanding that permits USDA to draw on the best scientific and technical information available from NASA in monitoring, mapping, modeling, and systems engineering. The primary purpose of this new cooperative effort is to help increase the production efficiency of farmers while continuing to reduce the cost of production by bringing more practical benefits of science and technology into agricultural applications.

USDA releases purchase specs for irradiated ground beef
On May 29, USDA released specifications for the purchase of irradiated ground beef for donation through the National School Lunch Program. The product will be available for schools to order in January 2004. The decision to order and serve irradiated ground beef will be made by local school districts. For more information, see www.fns.usda.gov/cga/PressReleases/2003/PR-0172.03.htm. For information on the National School Lunch Program, visit www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/. More details on irradiation can be found at www.fsis.usda.gov/OA/topics/irrmenu.htm. The new ground beef specifications with irradiation included are available at www.ams.usda.gov/lsg/cp/beef/beef_whatsnew.htm.

White House calls for revised dietary guidelines
On May 28, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) urged the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services and USDA to revise the nation’s dietary guidelines to include new information that omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD), while trans fatty acids may increase the risk. In its letter to HHS and USDA (www.whitehouse.gov/omb/pubpress/2003-13.pdf) OMB recommended that HHS and USDA modify the Dietary Guidelines and Food Guide Pyramid. The Dietary Guidelines affect the content of more than 25 million school lunches, while the Food Guide Pyramid appears on many food products, providing consumers with an outline of what to eat each day. Revised every five years, the Dietary Guidelines are scheduled to be updated in 2005.

by JAMES GIESE
Internet Editor