USDA announces safeguards against BSE
On December 30, Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman announced several changes in the effort to guard against bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). All downer cattle—those animals unable to walk on their own at the slaughterhouse—will be banned from the human food chain. Suspected animals will be tested and held until test results are known. In addition, the skull, brain, trigeminal ganglia, eyes, vertebral column, spinal cord, and dorsal root ganglia of cattle over 30 months of age, and the small intestine of cattle of all ages, will be banned from human consumption. Air-injection stunning of cattle will be prohibited, and mechanically separated meat will be banned from use in human food. Meat produced by the Advanced Meat Recovery (AMR) technology will be subject to expanded regulations to ensure that no spinal cord tissue or dorsal root ganglia is present in meat produced using AMR. For more information, see

Country-of-origin comment period extended
USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service is extending to February 27, 2004, the deadline for comments on its October 30, 2003, proposed rule (68 FR 61944) for the mandatory country-of-origin labeling program. The proposed rule would require retailers to notify their customers of the country of origin of covered commodities beginning September 30, 2004.

FDA offers guidelines on prior notice of imported foods
The Food and Drug Administration has announced the availability of guidelines entitled “Prior Notice of Imported Food, Questions and Answers.’’ The guidelines—available at —respond to various questions raised about section 307 of the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002. For more information, see the Federal Register of December 16 (68 FR 241 69957-69958).

Whole-grain foods health claim approved
On August 8, 2003, Kraft Foods submitted to FDA a notification containing the following proposed claim: “Diets rich in whole grain foods and other plant foods, and low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may help reduce the risk of heart disease.” According to FDA, after December 9, 2003, manufacturers may use the specified claim on the label and in labeling of any food product that meets the eligibility criteria described in the Kraft notification, unless or until FDA or a court acts to prohibit the claim. To see the statements and for more information, see

FDA official to head WHO nutrition project
Christine Taylor, Director of FDA’s Office of Nutritional Products, Labeling, and Dietary Supplements, has been chosen to head a special project on nutrition issues for the World Health Organization. In the two-year assignment, which begins in January, she will develop approaches to help WHO assess food-related health risks by creating nutrition risk-analysis models. For more see

USDA posts healthy eating index
USDA has posted an Interactive Healthy Eating Index, an online dietary assessment tool that provides information on diet quality, related nutrition messages, and links to nutrient information. More information is available at

CFSAN reports 2003 program accomplishments
FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Nutrition has posted a report on its 2003 program priority accomplishments for the FDA Foods Program. The report is available at

FDA and CDC post new Listeria action plan
FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reviewed ongoing Listeria monocytogenes prevention and control activities and have developed an action plan, which includes activities targeted at the serious problem of L. monocytogenes–caused illness. This plan seeks to reduce significantly the risk of illness and death caused by L. monocytogenes in ready-to-eat foods with consideration of control measures for at-risk foods. For more information, see

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