Food allergen labeling legislation passes House
The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on July 22. If signed by President Bush, the new act will go into effect January 1, 2006. The labeling laws, though not as strict as those passed by the European Union earlier this year, will require food manufacturers to clearly identify the presence of any of the eight major food allergens (milk, egg, fish, Crustacean shellfish, peanut, tree nut, wheat, and soybeans) using their “common or usual name.” The law also requires that the allergens be identified if they are present in “hidden” ingredients such as spices, flavorings, additives, and colorings. In addition, the act calls on the federal government to improve the collection of food allergy data; convene a panel of experts to review food allergy research; report to Congress on the number of allergen inspections of food manufacturing facilities done over a two-year period, and the ways in which the facilities can reduce or eliminate cross-contact; consider revisions of the Food Code to provide allergen-free preparation guidelines for the foodservice industry; and examine consumer preferences with regard to advisory food labels.
Food Guide Pyramid revision planned
On July 13, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP) initiated a review and update of the Food Guide Pyramid. Proposed revisions to the Pyramid will be based on a more individualized model to encourage people to make choices within the dietary guidelines and in the context of their unique lifestyles. CNPP hopes the new Pyramid will motivate consumers to put their knowledge into practice. The system is envisioned to be delivered through multiple channels including print, Internet, and the media. For more information, see www.usda.gov/cnpp/.
USDA announces new food safety initiatives
At the IFT Annual Meeting + FOOD EXPO® in Las Vegas, Nev., on July 14, USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Elsa Murano released a document that reviews recent USDA successes and builds on the course laid out last year to improve the prediction and response to food safety challenges to further reduce the incidence of foodborne illness The document, “Fulfilling the Vision: Initiatives in Protecting Public Health,” presents a list of accomplishments for 2003, which included enhancement to BSE safeguards, development of new Food Safety and Inspection Service employee training programs, strengthened food security measures, and modernization of enforcement activities. The document also introduces a number of new initiatives to continue FSIS’s mission of ensuring food safety. The complete document can be found at www.fsis.usda.gov.
Landa named Deputy Director of CFSAN
Food and Drug Administration Acting Director Lester Crawford has announced that Michael Landa has been named Deputy Director for Regulatory Affairs of FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, beginning Aug. 1, 2004. Landa has served as FDA’s Deputy Chief Counsel since January 2000.
U.S.–Japan BSE Working Group talks conclude
The U.S.–Japan BSE Working Group concluded the last of its three meetings July 22 in Tokyo. The meetings, composed of experts and working-level officials, were designed to promote a better understanding between the two countries of the technical issues surrounding bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). Group members elaborated on points of agreement and developed technical options to encourage the renewal of beef trade from the U.S. to Japan. In a statement for the Working Group about the meetings, Peter Fernandez of USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said, “Both sides reaffirmed their support for additional international research on the science of BSE and the further development of internationally-shared standards through such organizations as the OIE.” A summary of the Working Group’s deliberations can be found at www.usda.gov/Newsroom/BSEWGiFinal072204.pdf.
More steps being taken against BSE
FDA and USDA are taking measures to further strengthen protections for consumers against BSE. Among actions, announced on July 9, the agencies will take are a call for public comment on additional BSE-preventive actions; a rule prohibiting certain cattle-derived materials in human food and cosmetics; and a proposed rule on record-keeping requirements. For more information, see the following Web sites: www.fda.gov/bbs/topics/news/2004/NEW01084.html, www.cfsan.fda.gov/~comm/bsefact2.html, www.cfsan.fda.gov/~comm/bsefaq.html, and www.fda.gov/oc/opacom/hottopics/bse.html.
by JAMES GIESE