This regular publication by DLA Piper lawyers focuses on helping clients navigate the ever-changing business, legal and regulatory landscape.
- FDA rejects petition on partially hydrogenated oils. The FDA on May 18 rejected a petition filed by the Grocery Manufacturers Association to allow limited uses of partially hydrogenated oils in foods. The GMA has sought the FDA's approval for the use of these oils as color and flavor carriers and as processing aids in baked goods, but the FDA adhered to its position that partially hydrogenated oils cannot be classified as "generally regarded as safe"(GRAS). In 2015, the agency removed these oils from the GRAS category, finding that their consumption contributes to heart disease and death. While it rejected the GMA petition, the FDA did agree to extend the deadline for removing these oils from food. For products that use these oils in the ways described in the petition, the deadline will now be June 18, 2019, to reformulate the products and January 1, 2021, to use up all inventory. The GMA says that food and beverage companies have already reduced the use of these oils in their products by more than 98 percent.
- Meat group objects to limitations on the definition of "meat."The National American Meat Institute (NAMI), in a comment filed with the USDA, has asserted that attempts by a rival trade group, the US Cattlemen's Association, to restrict use of the terms "beef" and "meat" to products from animals "born, raised, and harvested in the traditional manner" are "ill considered." In the comment, filed May 16, the NAMI wrote that limiting the legal definition of "meat" is a step that "may not be justified and should not be done with the sweep of the agency's hand."The NAMI reasoned, "Science evolves, and so does technology. The term 'meat' was fairly broadly defined by the agency decades ago and imposing today the artificial limitation requested by the petition could impede tomorrow's progress."
- Salmonella outbreak in eggs sickens 35 people. A total of 35 people have been sickened across 9 states in an outbreak of Salmonella traced to shell eggs. The outbreak first came to public notice when the FDA announced in April that more than 207 million eggs produced by Rose Acre Farms' facility in Hyde County, North Carolina were being recalled due to possible Salmonella contamination. No deaths have been reported, but 11 people have been hospitalized. An FDA inspection of the farm found dozens of rodents, some alive and some dead, in the hen houses, as well as other indications of uncleanliness and infestation. On May 22, Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), chair of the Congressional Food Safety Caucus and a member of the House appropriations subcommittee that funds the FDA, wrote to FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb asking about the agency's investigation of Rose Acre Farms. FDA inspection reports, her letter says, "revealed that the agency was aware of serious food safety violations at Rose Acre Farms' Hyde County facility weeks before a recall was initiated. Despite the scale of this outbreak, there are still many unanswered questions related to the recall and the investigation." This egg recall is the largest since 2010, which involved more than 500 million eggs from the Quality Egg company. See some of our coverage of the Quality Egg story.
- Nonprofits call on FDA to make new regulations in response to lettuce recall. On May 24, nine food-safety and consumer groups sent a letter to FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb calling on the agency to set new safety requirements for produce in the next six months. The letter, sent in the wake of a major recall of romaine lettuce from the Yuma, Arizona, area because of E. coli contamination, asked the FDA to designate produce, including leafy greens, as a high-risk food and to propose regulations that will enhance product tracing for it in the event of an outbreak. "Current technology makes it possible for retailers to track and trace products with extraordinary speed and accuracy. Retailers using advanced technology, such as blockchain, now report they can identify the origin of certain produce shipments in as little as 2.2 seconds. Given these advances, it is no longer acceptable that the FDA has no means to swiftly determine where a bag of lettuce was grown or packaged," the letter said.
- Organizations and farmers ask Senate not to change role of organic standards board. On May 24, more than 140 businesses, farmers, university research centers and organizations sent a letter to the chairman and ranking member of the US Senate Agriculture Committee, calling on the committee to continue to support the role that the National Organic Standards Board plays in the organic sector. The NOSB is an independent advisory body that makes recommendations to the US Secretary of Agriculture on organic standards, including the review of the National List of Approved and Prohibited Substances for organic foods. The signers of the letter warned that if the Senate uses this year's farm bill to make changes in the NOSB, it could undermine consumer trust in the organic label and damage the reputation of the organic industry. "Organic farming is a bright spot in the U.S. rural economy," the letter said. "Data show that organic farms are 35 percent more profitable than the average farm and that rural counties with a high level of organic farms and businesses have higher household incomes and reduced poverty rates by as much as 1.35 percent."
- Seattle's soda tax raising revenue as forecast. As of May 4, Seattle had collected more than $4 million in the first quarter of 2018 from its new tax on sugary beverages. That is in keeping with city officials' forecast that the tax would raise $14.8 million per year. The 1.75 cents per fluid ounce tax applies to sugary beverages, syrups and concentrates. It is paid by distributors who serve supermarkets, convenience stores and restaurants. The tax is designed to improve public health by reducing hypertension, obesity and heart disease.