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USDA to amend shell egg regulations
The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service is proposing to amend its regulations governing the voluntary shell egg grading program. The proposed revisions would add definitions that describe the official identification and packaging of shell eggs. For more information, see the Federal Register of June 2 (FR 69 31039-31045).
AMS to revise pepper standards
AMS is soliciting comments on the possible revision to the U.S. Standards for Grades of Sweet Peppers. The Fruit and Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee has asked AMS to review all fresh fruit and vegetable grade standards for usefulness. As a result, AMS has noted that tolerances need to be separated for decay affecting walls and/or calyxes from decay affecting stems only. Other areas for possible revision include adopting and defining industry terms for size and color. For more information, see Federal Register of June 15 (FR 69 33345).
Electronic cards replace paper food stamps
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Veneman announced on June 22 the end of the “paper era” in the Food Stamp Program since all 50 states and the U.S. territories now provide Food Stamp Program benefits with Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) instead of the traditional paper coupon. The technology is the same as used in commercial debit card systems with recipients using a plastic card with a personal identification number (PIN) to purchase eligible foods at authorized stores.
FDA to post produce safety action plan
The Food and Drug Administration has posted its new produce safety action plan, “Produce Safety from Production to Consumption: An Action Plan to Minimize Foodborne Illness Associated with Fresh Produce.’’ The new action plan can be found at www.foodsafety.gov/dms/fs-toc.html.
FSIS sets new date for pizza labeling standards
USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service is providing additional time for manufacturers of packaged pizza products to comply with new regulations that require that the labeling of products identified as “pizzas” that contain a meat or poultry component as part of the product name declare the percentage of meat or poultry in the product in a parenthetical statement contiguous to the ingredients statement. For more information, see the Federal Register of May 18 (FR 69 28042-28043).
FDA finalizes detention rule
In an effort to increase the safety and security of the U.S. food supply, FDA has issued a final rule establishing procedures for the detention of food which could cause a serious public health threat or death to humans or animals. The rule authorizes FDA to detain food based on evidence garnered by inspection, examination, or investigation. A detention order must be approved by the FDA District Director of the district in which the suspect food is discovered. Once detained, the food will be stored at a secure location determined by FDA and cannot be transferred without FDA approval. Such detentions would not exceed 30 days. For more information, see www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/fsbtac21.html.
USDA reports on meat and poultry plants’ food safety investments
A report by USDA indicates that the types and amounts of food safety investments made by meat and poultry slaughter and processing plants since the late 1990s are promoting the use of more-sophisticated food safety technologies. For more information, see www.ers.usda.gov/publications/tb1911/.
Supreme Court to hear interstate wine debate
The U.S. Supreme Court will step into a battle between state governments, alcohol wholesalers, wineries, and consumers over the direct sale of wine across state borders. Currently, 24 states do not allow residents to receive direct shipments of wine from out-of-state wineries. The prohibition laws have been challenged by wineries and their customers who wish to sell and buy wine over the Internet and by phone. The court will hear appeals involving prohibition laws in Michigan and New York. Thirty-six states have contributed to a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Michigan’s position. States say their laws help prevent fraud and underage drinking, and are supported by the 21st Amendment, which repealed Prohibition and gave states the authority to regulate the sale and use of alcohol. Such laws also help increase state revenues via alcohol taxes.
by JAMES GIESE