Bush nominates McClellan to run Medicare
On February 20, the White House Press Office announced that George W. Bush intends to nominate Mark McClellan, current Food and Drug Administration Commissioner, to be the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services at the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services. Lester Crawford, FDA Deputy Commissioner, will become the agency’s Acting Commissioner. 

Petition seeks mannitol production via fermentation
FDA announced that zuChem, Inc. filed a petition proposing that the food additive regulations be amended to permit the manufacture of mannitol by fermentation of sugars such as fructose, glucose, or maltose by the action of Lactobacillus intermedius (fermentum). For more information, see the Federal Register of February 19 (69 FR 7759). 

Irradiation of sweet potatoes from Hawaii allowed
On February 18, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service adopted a final rule that provides for the use of irradiation as an alternative to methyl bromide as a treatment for sweet potatoes to be moved interstate from Hawaii. For more information, see the Federal Register of February 18 (69 FR 7541-75470). 

New poultry research facility constructed
A new pilot facility allows researchers in the Poultry Processing and Meat Quality Research Unit of USDA’s Agricultural Research Service to design research projects with protocols that cannot be tested in inspected commercial facilities. The new processing facility was constructed at the Richard B. Russell Research Center in Athens, Ga. It allows researchers to install prototype imaging equipment and technology to detect fecal contamination on processed carcasses. Researchers can conduct field tests before going into the commercial arena. 

Imports of birds from Asia banned
HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson and USDA Secretary Ann Veneman have announced a ban on importation of birds and bird products from eight Southeast Asian countries. The ban, which is effective immediately, is designed to protect poultry and humans in the U.S. from the possible spread of avian influenza. It excludes bird products processed to render them noninfectious. Processed avian products must have an import permit and government certification of treatment. 

Study indicates 30-year increase in caloric intake
A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, conducted from 1971 to 2000, looked at Americans’ eating habits and found that women increased their caloric intake by 22%, men by 7% during that time. As the study reports, the prevalence of obesity in the U.S. increased from 14.5% to 30.9%. CDC analyzed data from four National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys. According to the study, mean energy intake of kilocalories increased, mean percentage of kilocalories from carbohydrate increased, and mean percentage of kilocalories from total fat and saturated fat decreased. For more information, see www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5304a3.htm

Agriculture imports may soon exceed exports
U.S. agricultural imports may soon exceed exports, giving the U.S. a trade deficit for the first time since 1959. Although exports continue to rise, imports are increasing at nearly twice the pace. U.S. consumers are buying imported horticultural products—vegetables, fruits, juices, nuts, and cut flowers—and cheese, bakery products, pasta, candy, vegetable oils, wine, beer, and coffee. For more information, see www.ers.usda.gov/Amberwaves/February04/Features/USTradeBalance.htm.

New method approved for E. coli detection in drinking water
The Environmental Protection Agency has approved CPI International’s ColitagTM method to support previously established requirements for National Primary Drinking Water Regulation compliance monitoring for total coliforms and Escherichia coli in finished drinking water. The new method gives water utilities and certified laboratories an additional analytical option to test for total coliforms and E. coli. The regulation is effective March 15, 2004. For more information, see the Federal Register of February 13 (69 FR 7156-7161). 

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