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Food Safety

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.

January 30, 2007 | Daily News

The California OSH Standards Board dealt a setback to organized labor groups during a Jan.18 meeting when it rejected a call to enact an emergency diacetyl standard. The board is instead setting up an advisory committee that will further discuss possible regulatory action for the chemical that may cause "popcorn lung" disease.

January 29, 2007 | Daily News

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) introduced a bill Friday (Jan. 26) requiring that companies state on product labels when food is from cloned animals.

Mikulski has no sponsors yet. However, seven senators recently urged FDA to rewrite its risk assessment after the agency in December said food from cloned animals is no different than conventional food, and Mikulski hopes they will sign on to the bill.

January 25, 2007 | Daily News

The Teamsters have begun lobbying Congress to pass new food worker safety measures in 2007. A Teamsters source said the union is concerned food processing industry practices are putting workers at risk for E. Coli exposure.

Constant pressure in the food processing industry to step up production leads to employees not following proper safety procedures, such as ensuring personal protective equipment that they removed during a bathroom break has been put back on before returning to work, the source said.

January 25, 2007 | Daily News

House Rules Committee Chair Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) is considering tacking a ban on an antibiotic used to treat bovine respiratory disease onto a bill phasing out antibiotics in animal feed if FDA does not heed her request to reject approval of the animal drug cefquinome. Slaughter is concerned the drugs would spur resistance in humans to similar drugs vital in human medicine.

In a letter dated Jan. 8, Slaughter asks FDA seriously consider the recommendations of its scientific advisory committee to reject the drug.

January 24, 2007 | Daily News

Consumer groups are upset by a recent FDA decision to apply the "lean" nutrient content claim, saying consumers will confuse "lean" and "low-fat" claims. Plus, they note the "lean" claim does not explicitly address trans fat.

The final rule applies to seafood, game meat, and quick, portable meals such as burritos, quiches, egg rolls and sandwiches. It now allows the "lean" label on "mixed dishes not measurable with a cup" that have less than 8 grams of fat, 3.5 grams or less of saturated fat and less than 80 mg of cholesterol for a selected portion size.

January 19, 2007 | Daily News

The chair of the House Appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over FDA's budget said Friday (Jan. 19) she wants to exert more oversight on the issue of drug safety, particularly post-market safety, and how the agency spends taxpayer money.

January 19, 2007 | Daily News

Troubled by recent foodborne illnesses and a dramatic decline in FDA food facility inspectors, Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI), chair of the Appropriations subcommittee with authority over FDA's budget, plans to make the case for increasing the agency's budget for inspectors, a spokesperson for the senator said.

Kohl met Jan. 10 with FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach and food center Director Robert Brackett to talk extensively about how the agency is addressing two recent E. coli outbreaks, one which resulted in three deaths.

January 18, 2007 | Daily News

A natural medicine advocacy group is urging FDA to veer away from the functional food regulatory approach under consideration in Europe, which the group fears would drive smaller companies out of business and reduce consumer choice. The group says the Europeans are pushing drug-like standards for dietary supplements and functional foods that would benefit large companies that could afford clinical trials.

January 18, 2007 | Daily News

FDA's move to consolidate its field product testing laboratories could pressure the agency into using private laboratories that analyze FDA-regulated products, though doing so would be more difficult with Democrats now in control of Congress, according to a former FDA official. FDA officials have already said they are open to using third parties for border inspections, though the import plan that was supposed to be nearly finished months ago has not been released.

January 17, 2007 | Daily News

A prominent professional group and a well-known consumer magazine are noting on their online dietary supplement databases the US Pharmacopeia Verified Mark that the quasi government organization certifies for certain supplements. By partnering with Consumer Reports, USP may increase consumer recognition of the USP supplement seal, which has been a major challenge, an industry source says.