John Block Reports: FDA 2014 – Busy Busy Busy

OFW Law founding principal Richard L. Frank fills in for former USDA Secretary John R. Block on John Block Reports.

While often the subject of criticism for delay or inaction on important regulatory matters, FDA has been busy, busy, busy as we start 2014. 

With Barack Obama no longer running for President and a dysfunctional Congress unable to  influence the Administration, FDA has chartered a very aggressive agenda for the coming year. Some of its initiatives will please production agriculture while others will not. A consumer protection agenda continues to predominate.

Here is a list of some of the major items to look for: 

  1. Food Safety and Modernization Act implementation – comment periods will soon close in the foreign supplier verification program and third-party facility certification rulemakings. A proposed rule on safe transportation of food is expected soon. The agency likely will issue final rules later this year which must come to grips with the serious objections industry has posed to the preventive controls and produce rules. 

  2. Trans fats – last November, FDA published a tentative determination that partially hydrogenated oils, the main source of trans fats, are not generally recognized as safe for use in food. A final determination that these ingredients are not GRAS could lead to their phase-out in cakes, cookies, pies, snack foods, coffee creamers, and refrigerated doughs. Whether a further drop in partially hydrogenated soybean oil use will impact soybean farmers is yet to be seen. 

  3. GMO salmon and apples – the agency appears to be on the verge of approving AquaBounty’s genetically engineered salmon and USDA may authorize the production and sale of GMO apples. 

  4. Animal feed antimicrobials – FDA has issued a guidance document laying out a road map for the phase-out of various uses of antimicrobials in food animals for food production purposes. The plan will also phase-in veterinary oversight of the remaining therapeutic uses for such drugs. 

  5. Labeling – FDA is on the verge of initiating the first major changes to the Nutrition Facts panel in over 20 years. The new proposals are designed to update daily reference values and intakes as well as rationalize serving sizes based upon recent consumption data.

Other possible labeling modifications include:

  • Changes to the nutrients required to be declared in Nutrition Facts. 
  • A new definition for “dietary fiber.” 
  • Changes in the look and format of Nutrition Facts 

FDA will also issue a final rule requiring calorie labeling for chain restaurant foods and vending machine foods. 

All in all, 2014 promises to be a very active year for our good friends at the Food and Drug Administration. 

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