FDA approves Ace-K as general-purpose sweetener
On Dec. 31 2003, the FDA amended the food additive regulations to provide for the safe use of acesulfame potassium as a general-purpose sweetener and flavor enhancer in food, not including meat and poultry. This action is in response to a food additive petition filed by Nutrinova, Inc. It will simplify the existing regulations by replacing all of the currently listed uses of with a single-use category for food. For more information, see the Federal Register of December 31, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 250, pages 75411-75413).

USDA publishes new policies on BSE
On January 12, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture published a variety of regulations and protective measures to ensure the safety of the meat supply against bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). These include Advanced meat/bone separation machinery and meat recovery systems; specified risk materials used for human food, prohibition; and non-ambulatory disabled cattle; and stunning devices used to immobilize cattle during slaughter. USDA also published its Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy Surveillance Program. Details are in the Federal Register of January 12 (69 FR 1873-1891).

Agriculture committee questions BSE actions
On January 21, the U.S. House of Representatives Agriculture Committee questioned Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman on USDA’s actions regarding the BSE case found in Washington State. Her response can be found at www.usda.gov/Newsroom/0031.04.html.

Revised guidelines for levels for radionuclides in foods
The Food and Drug Administration announced the availability of a draft compliance policy guide entitled “Guidance Levels for Radionuclides in Domestic and Imported Foods.” The revised guidelines update levels of radionuclide activity concentration in food offered for import. It also makes these same guidance levels applicable to food in domestic interstate commerce for the first time. For more information, see www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/cpgnuc.html.

CFSAN posts information on research program
Since 1998, FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition has operated a competitive extramural research program. Through it, CFSAN has been able to augment its food safety research and provide for critically needed research to develop the means to identify and characterize foodborne hazards more rapidly and accurately, to provide the tools for regulatory enforcement, and to develop effective interventions that can be used to prevent hazards at each step from production to consumption. For more information, see www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/fs-resg.html.

USDA to launch MyUSDA portal site
On January 13, Agriculture Secretary Veneman announced that e-Government initiatives would be a special focus of the department in 2004. Visitors to the USDA Web site, www.usda.gov, will begin to see a new design, which is the first phase in efforts to make the Web site more powerful and improve access to USDA information and science. The goal is to provide integrated service around customer needs. For example, USDA is preparing a new Commodity Market Information System to bring together many sources of commodity information from various agencies in one place.

FDA amends regulations on use of menhaden oil
FDA is issuing a tentative final rule to reallocate the uses of menhaden oil in food (21 CFR 184.1472). The agency has tentatively concluded that these uses of menhaden oil are generally recognized as safe (GRAS), but only when the menhaden oil is not used in combination with other added oils that are significant sources of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). For more information, see the Federal Register of January 15 (69 FR 2313-2317).

CDC says obesity costs states billions
A new study by researchers at RTI International and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that obesity-attributable medical expenditures in the United States reached $75 billion in 2003 and that taxpayers finance about half of these costs through Medicare and Medicaid. Total state-level expenditure estimates in 2003 dollars range from $87 million in Wyoming to $7.7 billion in California. For more information, see www.cdc.gov/od/oc/media/pressrel/r040121.htm.

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