Category Archives: Food Safety & Standards Authority

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

One in Twelve U.S. Children May suffer from Food Allergies

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Foodfacts.com realizes that more and more children are now suffering from food allergies. Nearly 6 million U.S. children or about one in 12 kids are allergic to at least one food, with peanuts, milk and shellfish topping the list of the most common allergens, a new study finds.

Researchers conducted a nationally representative survey of the parents of more than 40,000 children. About 8 percent reported having a child who had a food allergy. Of those, about 30 percent said their child was allergic to multiple foods.

Among kids with food allergies, 25 percent were allergic to peanuts, 21 percent were allergic to milk and 17 percent had an allergy to shellfish. Those were followed by tree nuts (13 percent), eggs (nearly 10 percent), finned fish (6 percent), strawberries (5 percent), wheat (5 percent), and soy (just under 5 percent).

While the study was a snapshot of the prevalence of food allergies in America and did not track change over time, researchers said anecdotal evidence — including reports from schools and the numbers of patients coming in to allergists’ offices — suggests that the rate is rising.

“Eight percent is a pretty significant amount of kids,” said lead study author Dr. Ruchi Gupta, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University and a pediatrician at Children’s Memorial Hospital, both in Chicago. “We are seeing a lot more cases. We are seeing a lot more in schools than we used to see. It does seem that food allergy is on the rise.”

The study is published in the July issue of Pediatrics.

Allergic reactions to foods can range from mild to severe. In the survey, about 61 percent of food allergic children had a mild to moderate reaction, including swelling of the lips and face, hives, itching, flushing or an eczema flare.

The remaining 39 percent had a severe or even potentially life-threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis — wheezing and trouble breathing, vomiting, swelling, persistent coughing that indicates airway swelling and a dangerous drop in blood pressure.

The foods most commonly associated with a severe reaction included tree nuts and peanuts, shellfish, soy and finned fish.eatingpeanutsduringpregnancymayincreasechildrensriskoffoodallergies_2248_800211243_0_0_7052658_300

“Especially for kids with multiple food allergies, it complicates their lives and makes it really tough on these kids to avoid multiple foods to stay healthy and stay alive,” Gupta said.

Parents of children with food allergies should always carry antihistamine and an epinephrine shot (i.e., an EpiPen) with them, Gupta said. Even with those close at hand, witnessing a child having a serious food reaction can be terrifying for parents, who don’t know how bad it’s going to get and need to decide within moments whether to administer the shot and call 911.

Often, reactions happen when parents least expect them — while they’re at a family gathering or some other social event, and the child accidentally ingests something.

Dr. Susan Schuval, a pediatric allergist at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y., agreed that food allergies seem to be getting more common.

“We are seeing tons and tons of food allergies. There also seems to be an increase from what we’ve seen in the past,” Schuval said.

Right now, the only treatment available to most food allergic kids is avoidance. For parents and children, that means paying close attention to labels, taking precautions when eating out, bringing along their own food when they travel or go to social events such as birthday parties. It also means educating teachers, caregivers and other parents who may have their kids over to play about using an epinephrine shot and the seriousness of the allergy.

“They need to maintain their full alertness out of the home, in the schools and in restaurants,” Schuval said.

For some children, food allergies get better over time. Previous research has found many kids outgrow allergies to milk, egg, soy and wheat. Fewer outgrow peanut, tree nut, fish and shellfish allergies.

A wheat allergy is different from celiac disease, in which wheat cannot be digested properly and, over time, damages the lining of the intestines.

For more information on food allergies and how to avoid them check out blog.foodfacts.com.

Information provided by: MSN News

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