John Ruff

Following a contentious election season that focused primarily on economic, social, and foreign policy issues, it’s time now for food professionals to go to Washington and focus on food policy issues. IFT’s second Food Policy Impact conference at the Renaissance Capital View Hotel in Arlington, Va., will provide a great setting to debate and discuss regulatory food issues with food policy experts. Convening professionals from government, law, consulting, academia, and the food industry, Food Policy Impact is IFT’s forum for the exchange of knowledge and opinions on food policy and regulatory affairs. This is our opportunity to ensure that the best and latest science is used as the basis for our food regulations.

At our inaugural Food Policy Impact conference last year, I was impressed by the breadth of opportunities for networking and debating with Washington insiders, consumer advocates, and food policy critics. One of the highlights last year was the debate between Michael Jacobson, who heads the Center for Science in the Public Interest, and Peter Barton Hutt, a food law attorney with Covington & Burling LLP. Some may recall that Hutt got the exchange off to a roaring start by declaring the U.S. regulatory food system “a ridiculous process.” This year’s conference is sure to have speakers and attendees who agree or disagree with Hutt’s opinion.

I was also engrossed in the various presentations and discussions on the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), with the details still being worked out as we met. This was clearly both timely and invaluable to many. This year, with the recent Proposition 37 vote in California fresh in our minds, the debate on use of crops that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and their labeling will no doubt be lively. But I see this as part of a concern that is much broader than the specific GMO labeling question. That is the increasing rhetoric against the scientific advances that we know are essential to feeding the world’s growing population with safe and nutritious food. As food scientists we need to be more heavily engaged in this debate rather than leaving it to those who are more vocal, but often less well informed.

The conference will commence on the morning of Thursday, December 6, 2012, with the session “2012 Food Policy in Review—Short-Term and Long-Term Impacts,” led by Fred H. Degnan of the international law firm King & Spalding. Degnan will provide a review of the past year in food policy, focusing on harmonization, global public policy, and other policy-related topics from the past year. Having served as a chief counsel and associate chief counsel for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, his insights on the most meaningful public policy events from 2012 should be spot on.

The morning will continue with the session “FSMA Advancements and Approaches,” led by speakers Leon Bruner of the Grocery Manufacturers Association and Lisa Weddig of the National Fisheries Institute. Bruner and Weddig will provide comprehensive reviews of the law from different perspectives. In addition to explaining how future requirements will influence business practices, the two will share their opinions on how the outcome of the presidential election will affect implementation of the FSMA.

During the afternoon, panelists will discuss hot issues such as GMOs and labeling in the U.S. food market, standards and guidance, Canada’s regulatory modernization project, and international trade agreements. The conference will conclude Thursday afternoon with the session “What’s in Store for 2013 and Beyond?” which will focus on food and agriculture policy. It will provide insight into the potential opportunities and challenges in the upcoming year.

IFT will also offer pre-conference courses on December 4 and 5. Over two days, course instructors will explain U.S. label rules and requirements, pinpoint mandatory nutrition and ingredient statements, and elucidate the complexities of health claims on food labels. More information on these short courses is available online at

Make plans to attend the Food Policy Impact conference to network with key stakeholders and add your voice to the debate on food policy. I hope to see you in December.


John Ruff,
IFT President, 2012–2013
[email protected]

In This Article

  1. Food Policy