Murano and Veneman resign from USDA
Elsa A. Murano, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Undersecretary for Food Safety, announced on November 5 that she has resigned from the Food Safety and Inspection Service and has accepted the multi-titled position of Vice Chancellor of Agriculture for the Texas A&M University System, Dean of the College of Agriculture at Texas A&M University–College Station, and Director of the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station. And Ann Veneman resigned on November 15 after serving as Agriculture Secretary for four years. The first woman to head USDA, she plans to stay at USDA until a successor can take over.
USDA confirms detection of soybean rust in U.S.
USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service on November 6 confirmed the presence of soybean rust on soybean leaf samples taken from two plots associated with a Louisiana State University research farm. This is the first instance of soybean rust to be found in the U.S. Soybean rust is caused by either of two fungal species, Phakopsora pachyrhizi, also known as the Asian species, and Phakopsora meibomiae, the New World species. The Asian species, the one found in Louisiana, is the more aggressive of the two species, causing more damage to soybean plants. USDA has dispatched its soybean rust detection assessment team, composed of scientific experts and regulatory officials, to the site. The assessment team will work closely with Louisiana State Dept. of Agriculture representatives to assess the situation and conduct surveillance around the detection site to determine the extent of the disease spread.
FDA to seek labels with calorie percentages
Lester Crawford, Acting Commissioner of Food and Drugs, said at a meeting of the Food and Drug Administration’s FDA Science Board that an FDA proposal expected to be released next month would tell food manufacturers for the first time to list on packages the percentage of daily recommended calories the product contains. The purpose, he said, is to "shock you and tell you (that) you have consumed 50% of your daily calories."
FDA announces major initiatives for dietary supplements
On November 4, FDA announced three major regulatory initiatives designed to further implement the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA). These initiatives—a regulatory strategy, an open public meeting, and a draft guidance document for industry—are significant steps FDA has taken in the implementation of DSHEA. The agency intends to improve the transparency, predictability, and consistency of its scientific evaluations and regulatory actions to protect consumers against unsafe dietary supplements and dietary supplements making unauthorized, false, or misleading claims. More information information is available in the Federal Register of November 9 (69 FR 64957-64958) and at www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/ds3strat.html.
FDA allows health claim for olive oil
FDA announced the availability of a qualified health claim for monounsaturated fat from olive oil and reduced risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). According to the agency, there is limited but not conclusive evidence that suggests that consumers may reduce their risk of CHD if they consume monounsaturated fat from olive oil and olive oil-containing foods in place of foods high in saturated fat, while at the same time not increasing the total number of calories consumed daily. The claim reads as follows: "Limited and not conclusive scientific evidence suggests that eating about 2 tablespoons (23 grams) of olive oil daily may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease due to the monounsaturated fat in olive oil. To achieve this possible benefit, olive oil is to replace a similar amount of saturated fat and not increase the total number of calories you eat in a day. One serving of this product [Name of food] contains [x] grams of olive oil." This claim is the third qualified health claim FDA has announced for conventional food since the process for establishing such claims took effect last year. For more information about qualified health claims, see www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/qhcolive.html.
GAO releases report on food recalls
The Government Accounting Office has released a report on recalls of potentially unsafe food. The report, "Food Safety: USDA and FDA Need to Better Ensure Prompt and Complete Recalls of Potentially Unsafe Food" (GAO-05-51, October 7, 2004) is available online at www.gao.gov/new.items/d0551.pdf.
by JAMES GIESE