Court says beef checkoff is constitutional
On May 23, by a vote of 6-3, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Beef Promotion and Research Act of 1985, overturning lower-court decisions by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit and the U.S. District Court for South Dakota, which had ruled the measure unconstitutional. As a result of this decision, the Beef Checkoff Program will continue. The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture is reviewing this decision to determine its implications for other First Amendment challenges to checkoff programs. The mandatory program is funded by an assessment of $1 per head collected each time cattle are sold. All producers owning and marketing cattle, regardless of the size of their operation or the value of their cattle, must pay the assessment. The funds collected are used to support marketing programs.

U.S. to set new food standards
USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service and the Food and Drug Administration are proposing to set new general principles for food standards. The proposed general principles will establish criteria that the agencies will use in considering whether a petition to establish, revise, or eliminate a food standard will be the basis for a proposed rule. These proposed general principles are the agencies’ first step in instituting a process to modernize their standards of identity (and any accompanying standards of quality and fill of container) and standards of composition. For more information, see the Federal Register of May 20 (70 FR 29214-29235).

FDA extends comments for smoked fish controls
The Food and Drug Administration is extending until July 5, 2005, the comment period for the notice that appeared in the Federal Register of March 4, 2005 (70 FR 10650). In the notice, FDA requested comments and scientific data and information to assist the agency in its plans to conduct a risk assessment for Listeria monocytogenes in smoked finfish and to evaluate the provisions of the 2001 Food Code that address preventive controls for L. monocytogenes in retail and foodservice establishments. For more information, see the Federal Register of May 3 (70 FR 22888-22889).

Direct wine sales win
On May 16, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down state prohibitions on interstate wine sales in a 5 to 4 decision. Direct sales of wine to out-of-state customers have flourished recently due to online sales and the increasing popularity of winery visits. The ruling overturns laws in New York and Michigan, and will affect 24 other states that have similar prohibitions against direct shipments of out-of-state wines. The court found the state bans to be discriminatory and anticompetitive. Legislatures in 24 states currently barring out-of-state shipments of wine will have to review their laws to ensure fair treatment to in-state and out-of-state wineries.

FDA proposes dental claim for sucralose
FDA is proposing to amend the regulation authorizing a health claim for noncariogenic carbohydrate sweeteners and dental caries to include the nonnutritive sweetener sucralose. FDA is taking this action in response to a health claim petition filed by McNeil Nutritionals. FDA has concluded that sucralose does not promote dental caries, and it is proposing to include sucralose as a substance eligible for the claim. For more information, see the Federal Register of May 13 (70 FR 25496-25502).

USDA proposes national animal ID system
On May 5, USDA presented a report and timeline on the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) and called on agriculture producers, leaders, and industry to provide feedback. Both documents are available on the USDA’s NAIS Web site at A comprehensive description of system standards will be determined over time through field trials, user experience, and the federal rulemaking process. Administered by USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, NAIS is a cooperative state-federal-industry program being created to track animal movements from birth to death for the purpose of disease tracking.

FDA seeks comments on Salmonella in shell eggs
FDA is reopening until June 9, 2005, the comment period for its proposed rule entitled "Prevention of Salmonella enteritidis in Shell Eggs During Production" that was published in the Federal Register of September 22, 2004 (69 FR 56824). For more information, see the Federal Register of May 10 (70 FR 24490-24491).

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