OFW’s Food & Agriculture team regularly monitors announcements and policy issuances from FDA, USDA, and other agencies to keep our clients apprised of regulatory developments that may impact their business. Here are a few of the developments from December that we took note of. If you have any questions or would like more information, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
- FDA announced “the Foodborne Outbreak Response Improvement Plan” to strengthen food safety and better protect consumers. The plan is designed to help the FDA and other stakeholders/partners enhance the speed, effectiveness, coordination and communication of foodborne outbreak investigations.
- FDA published its latest proposed rulemaking to amend the agricultural water provisions of the produce safety rule, “Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption Relating to Agricultural Water.” If finalized, the Ag Water Proposed Rule would replace Subpart E of the original 2015 regulation, which contained the microbial criteria and testing requirements for pre-harvest agricultural water for covered produce (other than sprouts) with provisions for systems-based agricultural water assessments that are designed to be more feasible to implement across the wide variety of agricultural water systems, uses, and practices.
- FDA, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state/local partners announced they are investigating two multistate outbreaks of Listeria monocytogenes. Both are linked to packaged salads (For more information, please see FDA’s announcements: Dec. 21, 2021 Investigation Announcement; Dec. 22, 2021 Investigation Announcement).
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
- USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) published a Federal Register Notice, “FSIS Guidelines for Small and Very Small Meat and Poultry Establishments Regarding Cooking and Stabilization in Meat and Poultry Products (Previously Referred to as Appendices A and B)” (the Notice). The Notice announces FSIS’ revisions to two key guidance documents, which were published on December 14, 2021: FSIS Cooking Guideline for Meat and Poultry Products (Appendix A) and FSIS Stabilization Guideline for Meat and Poultry Products (Appendix B).
- FSIS has posted the FY2022 Annual Sampling Program Plan. A key FSIS inspection verification activity is the sampling of products for microbiological contaminants or chemical residues. FSIS has released a new sampling plan each fiscal year since 2011. These sampling plans continued FSIS’ efforts to comprehensively identify the agency’s microbiological and chemical residue sampling activities and consider them in light of data-driven strategic planning efforts.
- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the Biden-Harris Administration is providing up to $1.5 billion to states and school districts to help school meal program operators deal with the challenges of supply chain disruptions brought on by the pandemic. Funding will be made available through USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation. A state-by-state breakdown of funds can be found in this table.
- USDA FSIS announced that the agency is soliciting nominations for membership to the National Advisory Committee on Meat and Poultry Inspection (NACMPI). USDA expects to appoint committee members in 2022. Nominations packages must be received by February 18, 2022, and should be sent by email to Valeria Green, Director, Resource and Administrative Staff, Office of Policy and Program Development, Food Safety and Inspection Service at NACMPI@usda.gov.
- The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 decision, dissolved the stay previously placed on Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Emergency Temporary Standard (“ETS”) by the Fifth Circuit. By way of review, the OSHA ETS mandates employers with 100 or more employees require all employees be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or be required to wear face coverings and undergo weekly testing. More information can be found on OSHA’s website here.