Manufacturers push for speedier labeling policies

NFPA charges that FDA is excluding as many nutritional claims as possible

Food manufacturers are pushing Congress for faster implementation of U.S. Food and Drug Administration's new health claims and irradiation labeling policies, seen as friendlier toward industry. In her testimony before a Congressional hearing on the Food and Drug Modernization Act, Dr. Rhona Applebaum, VP of Scientific and Regulatory Affairs for the National Food Processors Association (NFPA), said the law is designed to allow manufacturers to give consumers more information about health and nutritional benefits of certain foods. "Unfortunately, FDA has taken great pains in its implementation of these provisions to exclude as many claims as possible," she charged. Applebaum said FDA turned down the first nine health claims submitted under new FDAMA provisions." Two FDAMA claims were authorized -- for whole grain foods and heart disease and cancer, and for potassium and reduced risk of hypertension -- but these small achievements are not adequate proof that FDA has abandoned its restrictive policies on health claims," Applebaum said. Also in her Congressional testimony, Applebaum charged that FDA's labeling policy actually discourages important food safety technologies, such as irradiation, from coming to market. She said that despite instructions from Congress to "explore alternative labeling for irradiated food," the FDA has been slow to act. "NFPA is encouraged that FDA is now seeking to undertake consumer research on irradiation labeling, but we wonder why this important reform of food safety information is taking so long," Applebaum said.

USDA proposes changes in milk requirements

USDA is proposing changes to the model recommended requirements for milk used in manufacturing following a review of drug residue monitoring practices. The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture pushed for the review, arguing that monitoring provisions covering milk used in manufacturing should be more in line with those for Grade A Milk. USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) reviewed the drug residue provisions for the document "Milk for Manufacturing Purposes and its Production and Processing" and identified several areas where changes could be made to provide greater consistency. The recommended requirements were developed by AMS and recommended for adoption and enforcement by the various states that regulate manufacturing grade milk. They promote uniformity in state dairy laws and regulations concerning manufacturing grade milk.

Bill seeks damage limits for small companies

Legislation introduced in both the House and Senate would limit punitive damage awards in lawsuits against small companies. If passed, the bill would limit small business liability in any lawsuit to the percentage of a judgment that matches their responsibility for any harm caused. Under current law small businesses can be held completely responsible for 100 percent of any court judgment, regardless of their degree of responsibility. The legislation has bipartisan support and U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Thomas Donohue believes it has a good chance of passage. "This common sense legislation will discourage costly and frivolous lawsuits against small business owners and help to restore fairness to our civil justice system," Donohue said.

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