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Food Safety

March 05, 2007 | Daily News

State governments are making progress in getting food companies to participate in Food Shield, a database of laboratory profiles that among other things helps regulators respond to foodborne outbreaks, either naturally occurring or from terrorists. The Food Shield program has gained support from federal agencies such as FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and state regulators hope they have garnered a critical mass of support that will encourage others to join.

March 02, 2007 | Daily News

Senate Democrats Hillary Clinton (NY) and Frank Lautenberg (NJ) Thursday (March 1) asked FDA and two other federal agencies to form a joint food safety task force charged with telling Congress what changes in law and regulation are needed to improve the federal government's oversight of foodborne-related illnesses.

A spokesman for Lautenberg says the request "absolutely complements" legislation reintroduced by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) in mid-February that would combine the food oversight responsibilities of 15 agencies under one roof.

March 01, 2007 | Daily News

FDA informed a key senator this week it will wait until fiscal 2008 to close seven regional labs, which gives Congress extra time to intervene. Federal employee unions feared FDA would close the labs this year.

Senate health committee Chair Edward Kennedy and a bipartisan group of 20 of his colleagues recently urged the Bush administration to put the lab closing plan on hold until Congress reviews the proposal.

February 28, 2007 | Daily News

The European Council of Environment Ministers last week soundly rejected a proposal from the European Commission that called for the termination of a Hungarian ban on genetically modified corn.

All but five of the 27 member states rejected the proposal that called for Hungary to lift its current ban on the use and sale of MON810 corn, which has been in place since January 2005 even though the genetically modified organism has been approved as safe by the EU as a whole.

February 23, 2007 | Daily News

Former FDA commissioners say they oppose the single food safety agency proposal recently reintroduced in a bill by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL).

The commissioners -- Jane Henney (1999-2001); David Kessler (1990-1997); Frank Young (1984-1989); and Donald Kennedy (1977-1979) -- spoke at George Washington University this week on ways to strengthen FDA (see related story).

February 23, 2007 | Daily News

A recent salmonella outbreak in peanut butter and a rash of botulism in baby food is part of a trend the House Energy and Commerce Committee deemed "quite disturbing" Wednesday (Feb. 21), just two days before FDA's Food Safety Director David Acheson was scheduled to brief a committee panel on the agency's response to foodborne illness outbreaks.

February 22, 2007 | Daily News

Drawing concern from consumer groups, FDA issued a draft compliance guide on a pilot voluntary self-inspection program that would allow animal feed mills with good manufacturing standards to bypass some FDA inspections.

The guidance, issued in the Monday (Feb. 12) Federal Register, says the agency expects about 1,000 feed mills will self inspect, of which 800 of these are expected to be licensed facilities and 200 to be non-licensed facilities.

Firms participating would be placed lower on the inspection priority list and audited less often by state authorities.

February 22, 2007 | Daily News

Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) re-introduced legislation that would compensate producers and handlers of fresh spinach for their financial losses when they voluntarily pulled fresh spinach from markets in reaction to FDA's public health advisory issued in September 2006.

The bill also authorizes $26.5 million for food safety research dedicated to fresh produce.

February 22, 2007 | Daily News

Food industry groups disagree over whether FDA should use mandatory Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points to regulate farmers.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), chair of the House Appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over FDA's budget, asked witnesses at a food safety hearing Feb. 8 if HAACP would be a viable consideration for growers and vegetable- and fruit-processing plants.

February 22, 2007 | Daily News

The food processors trade group is urging its members to improve recordkeeping so they can trace food contamination to its source faster to avoid tainting entire segments of the industry when problems are isolated to a few growers, industry sources say.

Bioterrorism law passed in 2002 included a recordkeeping measure to enable the government to trace food contamination, but farms are exempt from the law. FDA's regulation implementing the rule requires companies along the food chain to keep records on whom they bought product from and whom they sold it to.

February 16, 2007 | Daily News

Consumer groups and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) disagree over whether her single food safety agency bill would allow the agency to regulate farmers: Some consumers argue it includes on-farm regulation and DeLauro says it does not. Consumers groups also disagree among themselves over how closely FDA should regulate growers.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) announced this week they were reintroducing legislation to consolidate the 15 agencies with authority over food.

February 09, 2007 | Daily News

A chunk of FDA's proposed fiscal 2008 increase in food safety funding would go toward an information-technology system that identifies risky imports. The IT system fits into a plan the agency has long said it will release "soon" that is supposed to preferentially treat importers with good track records while scrutinizing imports that are of higher or unknown risk, a former FDA official says.

February 09, 2007 | Daily News

Several legislators say they want mandatory FDA food safety standards for growers, food processors, and retail establishments.

"We need to have standards at the harvesting stage, the growing stage, and the packing stage for use all over the country," said Rosa DeLauro, chair of the House Appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over FDA's budget, at a hearing Thursday (Feb. 8).

States usually abide by the voluntary FDA Food Code. But compliance varies state to state, said Government Accountability Office Comptroller David Walker at the hearing.

February 05, 2007 | Daily News

The president proposed a $106 million increase for FDA in the upcoming fiscal year, the largest boosts of which will be funneled to the agency's ongoing high-profile efforts to improve drug safety and respond to foodborne illness outbreaks.

February 02, 2007 | Daily News

Although FDA is trying to restrict the use of "gluten-free" label claims, a group representing consumers who cannot digest gluten says the claim should not be allowed at all. Industry on the other hand opposes FDA's proposed regulation because it sets a standard for gluten-free that is unachievable.

Gluten is a protein combination that forms when wheat flour is mixed with a liquid and physically manipulated, such as the kneading of bread. Some people cannot digest gluten and get sick when they consume it, making the "gluten-free" claim a potential marketing scheme.

February 01, 2007 | Daily News

The Center for Science in the Public Interest is suing Coca-Cola and Nestlé over the "calorie burner" claim on their new Enviga drink. CSPI says the companies are actually making a "weight-loss" claim that is based on poor research, and hope to prevent a wave of similar claims on other products based on the companies' data.

February 01, 2007 | Daily News

The House Wednesday (Jan. 31) passed a fiscal 2007 spending measure that grants FDA a $76 million budget increase over fiscal 2006 levels to cover the cost of pay increases, prevents the agency from laying off employees, and helps FDA keep up with general costs and workload. Adding industry user fees brings the total increase to $127 million.

The move is good news for FDA, as the continuing resolution would simply extend fiscal 2006 spending levels through the end of this fiscal year for many other agencies.

February 01, 2007 | Daily News

The House Energy and Commerce Committee is launching an investigation into FDA's ability to protect the public against foodborne illness.

"We understand that the budget for the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) has fallen from $48 million to $25 million in just three years," a bipartisan letter to FDA's commissioner states. "On the enforcement side, annual inspection of the more than 12,000 domestic food-processing plants dropped from 4,573 in 2005 to about 3,400 in 2006."

January 31, 2007 | Daily News

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), chair of the House agriculture subcommittee that handles FDA's budget, announced Wednesday (Jan. 31) she scheduled a long-planned hearing next week on the government's oversight of food safety in response to a report by congressional investigators released the same day calling for major congressional overhaul of the nation's "fragmented" food safety system. The report recommends Congress form a blue ribbon panel to come up with an alternative food safety scheme.

January 30, 2007 | Daily News

Senate health committee Chair Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and a bipartisan group of 20 of his colleagues penned a letter Tuesday (Jan. 30) to FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach urging him to halt a proposal to close several labs nationwide that investigate public health threats.

The senators admitted funding at FDA is stretched thin and asked the agency to tell them what it needs to keep all of its 13 labs open. FDA is considering closing seven of the labs and consolidating them.