FDA issues letter of concern about fresh sprouts 
On Aug. 20, the Food and Drug Administration issued a letter of concern regarding continuing outbreaks of foodborne illness associated with the consumption of raw and lightly cooked sprouts. The letter suggests actions the agency recommends to enhance the safety of these products. Since 1996, FDA has responded to 27 outbreaks of foodborne illness in which raw or lightly cooked sprouts were the confirmed or suspected vehicle. For more information, see www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/sproltr.html.

USDA awards $12 million for food safety research
Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman announced on Aug. 12 that more than $12 million has been awarded to 19 colleges and universities throughout the United States through the National Integrated Food Safety Initiative. These projects were selected for funding under USDA’s unified food safety research agenda announced Nov. 2003, to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of food safety programs. The unified agenda prioritizes research needs and maximizes use of available resources and involves coordination among USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), Agricultural Research Service, and Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service. For more information, see www.csrees.usda.gov/nea/food/in_focus/safety_if_national.html.

New policy director at CFSAN
FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition has appointed Leslye M. Fraser, S.M., J.D., as the Director of the Office of Regulations and Policy. She will lead FDA’s food and cosmetic regulations, guidance documents, and policy development, and will provide management oversight for international activities.

Inspection frequency of foreign plants may change
FSIS is proposing to change the required frequency of foreign inspection system supervisory visits to certified foreign establishments to bring FSIS’s import requirements into agreement with its requirements for domestic establishments. For more information, see the Federal Register of Aug. 18 (69 FR 51194-51196). Deadline for comments is Oct. 18.

Prior notice of imports guide revised
FDA and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection have revised a compliance policy guide that describes how the agencies will enforce requirements for companies to give FDA prior notice of foods being imported into the U.S. The revisions include clarification of how the agencies will handle violations of the prior notice rule. FDA receives about 160,000 prior notice submissions a week. For more information, see www.fda.gov/bbs/topics/ANSWERS/2004/ANS01304.html.

CSFAN accomplishments posted
A list of CFSAN’s accomplishments through June 2004 is available at www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/cfsan804.html.

Downward trend in Salmonella samples
FSIS has released regulatory sampling data that show a continued downward trend in positive tests for Salmonella. The Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) rule implemented July 25, 1996, established Salmonella performance standards in seven categories of meat and poultry products; broilers; market hogs; cows/bulls; steer/heifer; ground beef; ground chicken; and ground turkey. Despite minor yearly fluctuations in individual categories, Salmonella rates in all classes of products have decreased to levels well below the HACCP baseline prevalence estimates. Of the random regulatory samples collected and analyzed by FSIS in 2003, 3.8% tested positive for Salmonella, compared to 4.29% in 2002, 5.03% in 2001, 5.31% in 2000, 7.26% in 1999, and 10.65% in 1998. The Salmonella testing data can be found online at www.fsis.usda.gov/science/microbiology.

FTC supports food labeling rules revision
On Aug. 18, the Federal Trade Commission urged FDA to consider allowing food manufacturers to use “truthful, non-misleading health claims” for more products. In comments filed with FDA, the Commission argued that such claims would help consumers make informed dietary choices and promote competition among manufacturers to develop and market healthier food products.

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