FSIS changes nutrition labeling on meal-type products
The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service is amending its nutrition labeling regulations to change the definition of “meal-type” products to allow for nutrient content claims on multiple-serve food containers, to adopt the definition of “main dish” used by the Food and Drug Administration, and to define how meal-type products and main dishes should be nutrition labeled. The change in the definition of meal-type products will allow nutrient content claims on qualifying products to be based on 100 g of product rather than on the serving size. These actions are in response to a petition filed by ConAgra, Inc. The changes will help to ensure that FSIS’s nutrition labeling regulations are parallel as possible to FDA’s nutrition labeling regulations, which were promulgated under the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990. For more information, see the Federal Register of Oct. 1 (FR 69 Page 58799-58803).

Food Safety Institute of Americas inaugurated
USDA Deputy Secretary Jim Moseley and Under Secretary for Food Safety Elsa Murano, along with other regulatory officials from throughout the Western Hemisphere, inaugurated the Food Safety Institute of the Americas (FSIA) in Miami, Fla., on Oct. 13. The institute will develop and promote effective food safety education and training programs throughout the Americas. Murano said the establishment of the institute supports priorities established by Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman to spur the exchange of information and technology among countries around the world. The University of Florida and Miami-Dade College are the first institutions to partner with FSIA in this endeavor.

USDA gives $4.5 million for organic agriculture projects
On Sept. 29, Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman announced that USDA is awarding $4,614,980 in grants for 11 projects in six states that will strengthen the Integrated Organic Program (IOP). “These awards will help provide information to assist farmers and ranchers increase the production of high quality products while decreasing costs,” she said. The IOP supports research and extension and higher education programs to help organic farmers incorporate new technologies into their operations and to develop innovative marketing strategies. For details on the grants, see the USDA press release at www.usda.gov.

USDA releases security guidance for transporters
USDA has released a new voluntary security guidance document for truck transporters of agricultural and food products to bolster national security and safeguard public health. The “Guide for Security Practices in Transporting Agricultural and Food Commodities” is designed to enhance security measures practiced by the nation’s approximately 27,000 commercial transporters of agricultural and food-related products across the nation each year. For more information, see www.usda.gov.

Agencies to coordinate food emergency responses
USDA, FDA, and the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security have signed an agreement with the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture to develop an integrated response to food and agriculture emergencies. The cooperative agreement has three stages, all of which will be completed by June 2005. In the first phase, a workgroup composed of federal, state, and local officials will gather information about current state emergency response systems and the protocol for food/agricultural safety and security emergencies. In the second phase, the workgroup will devise, test, and refine an interagency response plan, which will include state and local participation. In the third phase, the workgroup will develop guidelines for federal agencies to cooperate with state and local emergency response efforts to streamline federal assistance to states in a food-related emergency.

California olive oil producers seek tougher regulations
California producers of olive oil have asked USDA for stricter grading regulations for U.S. olive oil to prevent low-grade oils being called “extra virgin.” The California Olive Oil Council says that because America does not have a legal definition for “extra virgin” oil, a loophole exists for both foreign and domestic producers to sell poor-quality olive oil under premium labels. For more information, see the Council’s Web site at www.cooc.com/home.html.

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