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 September 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)
- This public meeting is the result of rapidly increasing consumer online purchasing of food. It is a critical first step in a broader effort to address the safety of our food supply as new business models emerge. Addressing this issue is especially important now because so many people are getting their food this way.
- FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a consumer update about the safety of delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol – delta-8 THC. The agencies note that consumers should be aware that delta-8 THC products have not been evaluated or approved by the FDA for safe use in any context. To date, the FDA has received a number of adverse event reports involving products containing delta-8 THC.
- FDA published a new education initiative to help consumers better understand genetically engineered foods (GMOs or genetically modified organisms). In 2017, Congress appropriated funds for federal agencies to increase consumer understanding of GMOs. The result is the Agricultural Biotechnology Education and Outreach Initiative, which brings together FDA, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and USDA to share science-based educational information about GMOs, including answers to some basic questions about genetic engineering.
- FDA and the Association of Food and Drug Officials hosted the Retail Food Protection Seminar on September 13-16. The seminar was intended to explore the best ways to further modernize and help ensure the safety of foods sold at restaurants and other retail establishments, and included presentations by FDA Deputy Commissioner, Frank Yannis, and FDA Director of State Cooperative Programs, Laurie Farmer, among others.
- Last month Congress introduced the Food Labeling Modernization Act of 2021 (S 2594 and HR 4917) (FLMA). The bills are before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. The FLMA would, require many changes to existing food labeling requirements, including, e.g.:
- require FDA to establish certain front-of-pack labeling requirements, and definitions for “healthy” and “natural;”
- include substantiation requirements for manufactures on structure/function claims;
- include a notification requirement for certain nutrient content claims;
- establish requirements for a “low added sugar” claim;
- require FDA to re-format ingredients lists to improve readability, and update standards of identity.
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
- USDA sought comments on labeling of meat and poultry products derived from animal cells. The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) to solicit comments and information regarding the labeling of meat and poultry products made using cultured cells derived from livestock and poultry animals under FSIS jurisdiction. FSIS will use these comments to inform future regulatory requirements for the labeling of such food products. Comments are due by November 1, 2021.
- USDA invested $700 million in grants relief for impacted farm and farm workers as a result of Covid-19. Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that $700 million in competitive grant funding will be available through the new Farm and Food Workers Relief (FFWR) grant program to help farmworkers and meatpacking workers with pandemic-related health and safety costs. Later in the month, USDA also invested another $700 million to provide relief to small producers, processors, distributors, farmers, markets, seafood processing vessels and processors impacted by Covid-19.
- USDA-FSIS released a guide for labeling packaged meal kits. The guideline contains information to assist meat and poultry establishments (i.e., establishments that package meal kits containing FSIS regulated products) to comply with the inspection and labeling requirements for multi-component food kits that contain an inspected and labeled meat or poultry component.
- FoodNet Report Webinar: On September 23, 2021, representatives from the CDC, USDA- FSIS, and FDA hosted a call to highlight key information for the FoodNet report titled, “Decreased Rates of Infection with Pathogens Transmitted Commonly Through Food During the COVID-19 Pandemic – Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network, 10 U.S. Sites, 2017-2020.”The report summarizes preliminary 2020 data on the incidence of illness caused by eight pathogens and changes in incidence compared with the average for 2017–2019. It also describes how interventions to slow the spread of COVID-19 might have affected the occurrence and reporting of enteric infections.