FSIS reports on food security activities
On February 10, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) released details of the agency’s ongoing efforts to enhance food security. The report includes information on work with federal agency partners, state governments, industry, and consumers. It also lists major achievements such as establishing the Office of Food Security and Emergency Preparedness and preparing and distributing Security Guidelines for Food Processors. To view the full report, see www.fsis.usda.gov/oa/topics/FoodSecReport.pdf.
FSIS formulates new-technology notification
FSIS announced new procedures for meat and poultry official establishments, egg products official plants, and companies that manufacture and sell technology to official establishments and plants, to notify the agency of any new technology intended for use in plants. This gives FSIS an opportunity to decide whether the new technology requires a pre-use review. The notice is effective February 11, 2003. The agency must receive comments by April 14, 2003. Details are in the Federal Register of February 11 (68 FR 6873-6875).
GAO again calls for single food agency
The Government Accounting Office (GAO) once again called for a single food agency when it released a report as part of its “2003 Performance and Accountability Series and High Risk Update.” GAO found that while USDA and other agencies have implemented programs intended to enhance food safety, the continued instances of foodborne illnesses and related deaths warrant the combining of all food agencies under one single food safety agency. For the complete report, see www.gao.gov/pas/2003/d0396.pdf.
USDA releases details of proposed 2004 budget
Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman released details of the Bush Administration’s proposed FY 2004 budget for USDA programs and services, which includes record spending for important farm conservation measures, food safety protections, and nutrition and food assistance programs. The $74 billion request is 2% higher ($1.4 billion) than the previous year and $5.4 billion higher (or 8% growth) since FY2001. The budget seeks record-level support for USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service’s meat and poultry food safety programs as well as increases to strengthen agricultural protection systems. FSIS funding will increase to a program level of $899 million, an increase of nearly $42 million over the FY2003 and a $117 million (or 15%) increase in food safety programs since FY2001. For more information, see www.usda.gov.
FDA proposes new food bioterrorism regulations
FDA has proposed two regulations as part of the requirements of the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 (also called the Bioterrorism Act of 2002). The law gives the agency new authority in protecting the nation’s food supply against terrorist acts and other threats. One proposal would require domestic and foreign food facilities to register with FDA by December 12, 2003. The other proposal would require that prior notice be given to FDA before food is imported or offered for import into the United States. FDA is accepting public comments on the proposals for 60 days. The notices were published in the Federal Register of February 3 (68 FR starting on page 5377).
New online portal to rulemaking
The Bush Administration is encouraging wider participation in the regulatory process by introducing a new online portal to rulemaking: www.regulations.gov. The new site is expected to be able to handle at least 2,000 users at a time, or up to 16,000 comments per hour. Users will be able to select an agency and a regulation by keyword or type “all” to see all the regulatory proposals that might be open across the federal government. The system provides a comment box where 4,000 characters can be entered, and it accepts electronic attachments. Once entered, comments will be sent to the agency involved in the rulemaking. The agency will then post it to its docket “room.”
by JAMES GIESE