Category Archives: food safety rules

Farmers weigh in on new food safety rules … express concerns about the regulatory process

Foodborne illnesses are always a concern in the U.S. food supply. E. coli and salmonella are among the outbreaks we’ve become fairly used to hearing about in the news. FoodFacts.com follows food recalls on our website to keep our community notified of issues with specific products that often include foodborne illnesses. In January of 2011 the firm major reform of food safety laws in seven decades was enacted. The Food Safety Modernization Act was passed with the purpose of making food safer and reducing foodborne illness. It’s been two years and the FDA has put forward a draft for the new rules which has been open for public comment.

According to the Farm Bureau, however, the new regulations may just be too broad to do this job the way it needs to be done. Farmers have very specific concerns with the new regulations and believe that the FDA seems to be unwilling to focus specifically on the commodities that are most often associated with foodborne illness.

“We urge the FDA to reconsider standards that take into account the relative risks and comparative benefits associated with individual commodities. The FDA should initially propose regulations for only those commodities with a history of microbial contamination,” the Farm Bureau wrote in lengthy comments recently submitted to the FDA.

Only once those regulations are successfully put in place and enforced, should the FDA even consider expanding regulations to cover other commodities.

“We know that there have been problems with E. coli in leafy greens or with salmonella in tomatoes, for example, and the industry has voluntarily taken the initiative to curb some of those problems,” said Kelli Ludlum, American Farm Bureau Federation food safety specialist. “That’s where it really makes sense for FDA to focus their efforts. Unfortunately, they’ve chosen to go significantly broader than that and regulate a whole scope of commodities that have never had foodborne illnesses, and, because of the way they’re grown and consumed, are very unlikely to have those issues.”

Including low- and no-contamination risk commodities is a waste of both growers’ and the governments’ time and money.

“Instead of shrinking the size of the haystack in which they’re looking for that public health threat needle, by choosing to regulate all produce, they’re only making that haystack bigger, which neither farmers nor government inspectors and regulators have the resources for,” Ludlum said.

Specifically, because considerable changes to the draft rules are expected to be made as a result of public comments, the Farm Bureau believes a second draft of the proposed rule should be put out in order to work through the regulatory process adequately. Congressional lawmakers agree and are also calling for another round of comments. 30 senators and 45 House members said they were concerned about the impact of proposed rules on farmers and businesses that an additional comment period could help alleviate.

“We encourage the FDA to release a second draft of the combined produce safety, preventive controls for human food and animal feed, foreign supplier verification program and third-party audit certification rules to allow for sufficient review as to how all the rules are intended to work together,” Farm Bureau wrote.

Farmers are clearly concerned by the possibility of over-regulation that may not be necessary to ensure the safety of the food supply. While new regulation has clearly been needed and food safety is of the utmost importance to all Americans, the Farm Bureau’s concerns certainly pose a significant question regarding the FDA’s overarching approach to the issue. Time and money are important resources for both the government and America’s farmers. We’d be happy to see a second round of public comments to help the FDA arrive at a sensible set of much needed food safety rules that work for the government, the growers and consumers.

http://fbnews.fb.org/Templates/Article.aspx?id=38139

The FDA can’t seem to meet its schedule for modifying U.S. Food Safety Regulations

FoodFacts.com has some interesting news to report tonight coming out of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Back in January of 2011 a new law was signed requiring the F.D.A. to modernize food safety regulations. The F.D.A. has stated that the scope of the project is tremendous and will require additional time to complete. A lawsuit has been filed against them because of their failure to meet the deadlines given and now the Agency is fighting to have that lawsuit dismissed.

Here at FoodFact.com, we do feel that the U.S. can be behind other nations in our determinations regarding certain ingredients and their overall safety for the population. There are many food additives that have been banned in other countries that are still permitted in the U.S. food supply. There are many other ingredients that haven’t been studied to the degree required to deem them safe and yet the F.D.A. has allowed their use. So we can’t claim to be completely surprised by this latest news.

The lawsuit was actually filed back in August by the Center for Food Safety and the Center for Environmental Health. The Food Safety Modernization Act, which was passed into law at the beginning of 2011 was designed to help prevent food-borne illnesses that result in thousands of deaths each year. The two non-profit groups are accusing the F.D.A. of repeatedly missing hundreds of mandatory deadlines for issuing the regulations required by this law. They have asked the court to order the Agency to comply.

The F.D.A.’s efforts to have the lawsuit dismissed include a statement that their decisions regarding the law’s enforcement aren’t subject to judicial review. We don’t necessarily understand that as it seems to infer that the F.D.A. can’t be taken to court. They’ve also stated that they haven’t “unreasonably delayed” the dissemination of regulations. While the Agency isn’t arguing the fact that they have missed deadlines, they are trying to say that the deadlines aren’t really that important.

Sadly there are thousands of Americans who would have a different opinion. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 3,000 people die from food-borne illnesses each year and another 48 million (fully one in six citizens) get sick from food contamination.

The Food Safety Modernization Act is the first overhaul of food safety laws in over 70 years in the U.S. The new regulations are designed to establish standards for the sources of contamination of fresh fruits and vegetables. It would also hold importers responsible for the safety of their own products. Food companies would also be required to identify possible causes of contamination and take action to prevent them. While FoodFacts.com does realize that this is a tremendous undertaking, we also understand that it’s a very necessary step for the United States to take to protect our own consumers from a variety of dangers related to foods. We’ll keep an eye on this developing story and keep you updated. In the meanwhile, remember you can always check out FoodFacts.com to find out about the latest food recalls and their reasons.

Read more: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/03/usa-food-lawsuit-idUSL1E8MUCSC20121203

New York’s proposed ban on super-sized sugary beverages …the right thing to do or government interference? Thoughts from our community, please

Food Facts wants our community to weigh in on this very controversial piece of news. Last month, Michael Bloomberg, New York City’s mayor proposed a ban on the sale of large sized sodas and other sugary drinks. The ban would affect restaurant establishments, movie theaters and street food sellers. Mayor Bloomberg is proposing this ban in order to curb the rising problem of obesity in New York City.

The ban would apply to drinks that are larger than 16 fluid ounces and range from sodas to energy drinks to sweetened iced teas which would be prohibited from sale in delis, fast-food outlets, sporting venues and even hot-dog and sandwich carts which are common on most New York City street corners. If the proposal is approved, it could go into effect in March of 2013. In New York City, more than half of adults are obese or overweight. And about one-third of New Yorkers drink more than one sugary drink per day. This information comes from the New York City health commissioner. The proposed ban would not apply to drinks with fewer than 30 calories per 8-ounce serving, so unsweetened iced teas, diet sodas and flavored or vitamin waters with no calories would not be affected.

According to the mayor, the only thing the ban actually would do is make it less convenient to consume more than 16 ounces of a chosen sugary beverage. After all, a consumer would be free to buy a second one. Because the city does have jurisdiction over local eating establishments they are confident they have the authority to restrict the sales of these beverages.

Since the proposal, other mayors around the country are considering similar actions. Many in the health and nutrition community are supportive of the measure. Many in the New York City community and the government are not.

Here, in our Food Facts community, many are aware of the unhealthy and possibly downright harmful ingredients in soda. But, we’re also pretty aware that those statements don’t just involve sugary sodas and pretty much extend to diet versions, as well. You can check out two examples right here:

http://www.foodfacts.com/ci/nutritionfacts/Diet-Soda/Coke-Cola-Diet-Coke-Soda-20-oz/778

http://www.foodfacts.com/ci/nutritionfacts/Cola/Coca-Cola-20-fl-oz/44984

We’d like our Food Facts friends to weigh in on this issue. Let us know:

1) Is the ban, and others like it that will undoubtedly follow, an infringement on our basic rights? If the New York City government can ban large sized sugary beverages, what other nutrition-based decisions can they go on to force on adult residents?

2) Is the ban a viable way to attempt to control a growing obesity problem in New York and other cities like it?

3) Does the ban actually not go far enough? If we know that the ingredients in soda are actually harmful to our health and that’s true for both diet and sugar-laden beverages, why aren’t governments trying to control the intake of all kinds of drinks? Aspartame is just as controversial as high-fructose corn syrup and phosphoric acid and potassium benzoate certainly don’t qualify as additives we don’t need to worry about.

It’s a fascinating conversation and one that can be looked at from many points of view. As a member of the Food Facts community, we’d like to hear your stance and reasoning. As educated consumers, your opinions are valuable, not only to us, but to all communities and cities considering ways and means to curtail the growing problems of obesity and poor nutrition becoming more and more prevalent in our country every day.

Bacteria seen in nearly half of U.S. meat

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Foodfacts.com has learned that Almost half of the meat and poultry sold at U.S. supermarkets and grocery stores contains a type of bacteria that is potentially harmful to humans, a new study estimates. Researchers tested 136 packages of chicken, turkey, pork, and ground beef purchased at 26 grocery stores in five cities around the country, and found that 47 percent contained Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus), a common cause of infection in people. What’s more, roughly half of the contaminated samples contained strains of the bacteria that were resistant to at least three antibiotics, such as penicillin and tetracycline. Some strains were resistant to a half dozen or more.

Although the high contamination rates may sound alarming, the threat these bacteria pose to humans is still unclear.
“We know that nearly half of our food supply’s meat and poultry are contaminated with S. aureus, and more than half of those are multidrug resistant,” says Lance B. Price, Ph.D., the senior author of the study, which was published Friday in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases. “What we don’t know [is] how often these transfer to people. We need more studies to quantify the public health impact.” S. aureus, and drug-resistant strains in particular, can cause serious infections and even death in humans. However, simple precautions including cooking meat thoroughly, washing hands after handling meat, and keeping raw meat separate from other foods to prevent cross-contamination are believed to neutralize the risk of infection, according to experts not involved in the research.

“Numerous studies of this type done in other countries…have generally come up with the same findings, that multidrug-resistant S. aureus are present in a variety of animal meats,” says Pascal James Imperato, M.D., the dean of the School of Public Health at SUNY–Downstate Medical Center, in Brooklyn. “But, so far, no one has been able to draw a connection between the presence of those bacteria in meats and human illness.” Multidrug-resistant bacteria strains are “always a concern for humans,” says M. Gabriela Bowden, Ph.D., a bacteria expert and assistant professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center, in Houston. “But if you follow the hygiene rules that you would follow for Salmonella or E. coli, there shouldn’t be a problem.”
The meat, which was sold under 80 different brands, was purchased in Los Angeles; Chicago; Washington, D.C.; Fort Lauderdale; and Flagstaff, Ariz. The variety and number of S. aureus strains found on the samples suggest that the livestock themselves — rather than contamination during processing and packaging — are the source of the bacteria, the study notes.

Each year farmers and ranchers give millions of pounds of antibiotics to farm animals, most of them healthy, to make them grow faster and to prevent — rather than treat — diseases, says Price, the director of the Center for Food Microbiology and Environmental Health at the Translational Genomics Research Institute, a nonprofit organization in Flagstaff.
The combination of bacteria, antibiotics, and livestock living in close quarters creates the perfect environment for bacteria to thrive and mutate, which may explain the high levels of drug-resistant S. aureus seen in the study, he adds. Virtually all (96 percent) of the S. aureus strains Price and his colleagues isolated had developed resistance to at least one antibiotic. Strains resistant to three or more antibiotics were found in 79 percent of turkey, 64 percent of pork, 35 percent of beef, and 26 percent of chicken samples.
“It’s four different meats from four different animals in different geographical areas,” Bowden says. “[S. aureus] may be more prevalent than we think.”

Methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA), which has been a particular menace to humans in hospitals and communities alike, was found in one package each of beef, turkey, and pork, though not chicken. This sample size wasn’t large enough to arrive at an accurate estimate of its prevalence in meat nationwide, according to the study.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture currently monitor the country’s meat supply for evidence of four major types of antibiotic-resistant bacteria (including Salmonella and E. coli). The study findings suggest that S. aureus should be screened for regularly as well, the researchers say.

Article provided by Amanda Gardner

Understanding the Dangers of Sodium Benzoate as a Food Preservative

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Foodfacts.com wants to make you more aware of what controversial ingredients manufacturers are putting into our foods. Sodium benzoate is a commonly used preservative in such items as soft drinks, fruit juices, and jams. Here’s why you need to be concerned about it.

As more people become aware of the chemicals they put into their bodies when they eat processed foods, food preservatives have come under increasing scrutiny. These chemical additives serve the important purpose of stopping the growth of bacteria and fungi which could cause illness if left unchecked. Unfortunately, the dangers of food preservatives are becoming increasingly recognized. One unhealthy preservative that’s received recent attention is sodium benzoate.

Sodium benzoate is a commonly found preservative in such food and drink products as fruit juice, soft drinks, coffee flavoring syrups, as well as a variety of condiments. Although the FDA has previously classified sodium benzoate as a safe preservative, this classification is now being questioned. It appears that sodium benzoate forms a chemical known as benzene when in the presence of vitamin C. Benzene not only causes damage to DNA, the genetic material, it’s also a known carcinogen and appears to play a role in a variety of diseases due to it’s DNA damaging capabilities.

Another reason sodium benzoate may be considered an unhealthy preservative is its effect on children. Some studies have shown that sodium benzoate along with artificial food colorings can cause children with ADHD to be more hyperactive. This can be a particular problem for kids who consume soft drinks on a regular basis since most carbonated beverages have sodium benzoate as a preservative. Because of increasing awareness of this problem, Coke is planning on removing this unhealthy preservative from its soft drink products this year.

Because the conversion of sodium benzoate to benzene occurs in the presence of vitamin C, this unhealthy preservative may be particularly unsafe when used in fruit jellies, jams, and fruit juices where high vitamin C fruits are present. It’s also thought that heat plays a role in the conversion to benzene, so heating products containing this preservative could increase the risk of negative health effects.

Unfortunately, many of the preservatives used in common food products have raised health concerns although sodium benzoate appears to be under the most scrutiny right now. To reduce your risk of exposure, read nutrition labels closely and avoid products that contain sodium benzoate, which can also be listed on the label as E211. Be particularly careful to avoid buying products high in vitamin C that have this unhealthy preservative and never put any product containing sodium benzoate under heat. To avoid the dangers of food preservatives entirely, avoid processed and packaged foods and make your own fresh items at home.

Article provided by: www.ehow.com

Changes coming on food safety rules

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The country is about to witness dramatic changes in food norms, impacting the industry significantly, if initiatives being taken by the Food Safety & Standards Authority (FSSAI) are a yardstick.

Formulation of food recall procedures in case of unsafe or hazardous products , mandatory compliance with GAP (good agricultural practices) for big retailers, labelling changes for packaged food items, organic food certification, setting water quality standards and verification of claims by food supplement companies are among the major reforms being planned by the sector regulator and the government.

FSSAI is currently in the process of consulting with industry stakeholders on food recall procedures. Speaking to Business Standard, FSSAI chairman P I Suvrathan said food recall was a rather complex process and the Authority would be able to come out with related norms early next year.

The provision of recall exists in the new integrated food safety law, expected to come into effect this August, but “we have not developed a recall procedure yet”, said Suvrathan. According to him, many countries do not have a recall procedure. The draft food recall rules state the objective of the procedure as “guiding food business operators on how to carry out a food recall through an efficient, rapid identification, as well as removal of unsafe food and food that violate the Act and Rules & Regulations…” Informing consumers about the food hazard, establishing a written recall plan, and having a follow-up action plan are also part of the draft.

OTHER PRIORITIES
The Authority is also set to look at GAP (good agricultural practice) as an effective way of assuring food safety. FSSAI will now start putting GAP-certification as a mandatory condition for large retail companies in India. “GAP is important because a major part of all food products originate from agriculture,” the FSSAI chairman said. If we know the extent of pesticide a farmer is using, checking food safety and level of contamination will be that much simpler.

Organic food is another area of focus for the Authority. What can be called organic and what is near-organic are some of the things that FSSAI will look at. “We have plans of taking up organic food certification,” said Suvrathan. Many agencies and ministries are working in this area and FSSAI is consulting with all of them on the issue.

Another priority area are new guidelines on labelling and claims by manufacturers of food products and health supplements. If a food product or supplement manufacturer claims something, it will have to establish it. The Authority has developed the first part of the regulation and the new norms should be in place by the end of this year.

“We are updating the current labeling provisions. Scientific backing for claims will be necessary. What study have you done, what is the evidence — you have to prove your claims. These are the questions we will ask,” said Suvrathan.

As for contents on the cover/packaging, the print size and logo, everything will be vetted. “Often companies say that they have to make the print very small because they need to put in so many things as part of labelling.” Now, they have been told that only relevant information like expiry date and ingredients should be there. Take away all that is irrelevant.”

Setting standards for quality of water used in food products is also on the to-do list of the Food Safety Authority. “Water is dealt with by 15 agencies, including several ministries in India,” said Suvrathan . The Authority will come out with a standard for potable water within six months.

Information provided by: http://www.business-standard.com