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USDA offers research grants
Joseph J. Jen, the Agriculture Department’s Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics, announced on May 20 a request for applications for $30 million in supplemental funding under the National Research Initiative competitive grants program. Applications must be received by July 30. The grants will target five new programs: functional genomics, human nutrition and obesity, air quality, animal and plant biosecurity and training for agricultural homeland security. For more information, see www.reeusda.gov/nri.
U.S. files WTO case against EU on biotech foods
U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick and Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman on May 13 announced that the United States, Argentina, Canada, and Egypt will file a World Trade Organization (WTO) case against the European Union (EU) over its illegal five-year moratorium on approving agricultural biotech products. Other countries expressing support for this case by joining it as third parties include Australia, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, and Uruguay. “The EU’s moratorium violates WTO rules,” said Zoellick. “People around the world have been eating biotech food for years. Biotech food helps nourish the world’s hungry population, offers tremendous opportunities for better health and nutrition and protects the environment by reducing soil erosion and pesticide use.” For more information, see www.usda.gov/news/releases/2003/05/0156.htm.
FDA to open food bioterrorism testing labs
FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are working to expand the number of counterterrorism laboratories capable of analyzing foods. This broadened network will provide more efficient testing of food samples to help public health officials respond to chemical or biological terrorism incidents. For more information, see www.fda.gov/oc/bioterrorism/foodlab.html.
FDA issues final two food bioterrorism regulations
FDA announced on May 6 the publication of the final two food safety proposed regulations required by the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002, which gives FDA new authority to protect the nation’s food supply. The proposals are two of four proposed regulations that the act requires FDA to develop regarding food safety. These two proposals deal with establishing and maintaining records among food firms, and the administrative detention of foods that may pose a risk to public health. The other two proposals, concerning the registration of food facilities and prior notice of imported foods, were published in January 2003. For more information, see www.fda.gov/bbs/topics/NEWS/2003/NEW00902.html or www.fda.gov/oc/bioterrorism/bioact.html.
PACA coverage extended to coated fruits and vegetables
The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture is amending the regulations under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act to extend coverage to include fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables that are coated or battered. The act establishes a code of fair trade practices covering the marketing of fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables in interstate and foreign commerce. It protects growers, shippers, distributors, and retailers dealing in those commodities by prohibiting unfair and fraudulent trade practices. USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service administers and enforces PACA. For more information, see the Federal Register of May 2, 2003 (68 FR 23377–23378). The regulation can be found online at http://a257.g.akamaitech.net/7/257/2422/14mar20010800/edocket.access.gpo.gov/2003/03-10819.htm.
FDA says report shows food safety progress
FDA claims that the National Academy of Sciences’ report, “Scientific Criteria to Ensure Safe Food,” commissioned by FDA and USDA, reinforces the progress that FDA has already made in reducing and preventing foodborne illness. According to FDA, the report specifically attributes some of this progress to the adoption of the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) approach to food safety, which FDA has already applied to seafood and fresh juice and is voluntarily applied in the dairy industry. The report also calls for clearer links, in the overall U.S. food safety system, between food safety standards and public health outcomes. FDA supports this general goal as a sound public health approach, and has already made progress in reducing the incidence of foodborne illness in collaboration with Healthy People 2010 and CDC’s FoodNet and Pulsnet. For more information, see www.fda.gov/bbs/topics/ANSWERS/2003/ANS01217.html.
by JAMES GIESE