Free trade in Central America approved

Food industry representatives in Washington were in a celebratory mood following Congressional approval of the US Free Trade Agreement with the Dominican Republic and Central America (DR-CAFTA). Lobbyists pulled out all the stops to press reluctant lawmakers to approve the agreement, which squeaked through the House with only one vote to spare.

"For our industry, global trade is an essential part of doing business, and as the largest trade association serving the processed food and beverage industry in the United States and worldwide, we will continue to help foster an environment, both domestically and abroad, that facilitates trade for processed food and beverage products," said Cal Dooley, president and CEO of the Food Products Association.

"Passage of DR-CAFTA helps keep the United States in a good position at the table for the larger World Trade Organization Doha Agricultural Round, which we are counting on to yield badly needed reform in agricultural trade," noted Connie Tipton, president and CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association.

Poultry drug banned

FDA has issued its final rule banning the use of the antimicrobial drug enrofloxacin for the purpose of treating bacterial infections in poultry. The drug is marketed under the name Baytril by Bayer Corporation. The agency cited scientific data that showed the use of enrofloxacin in poultry caused resistance to emerge in Campylobacter, a bacterium that causes food-borne illness.

Inspection costs to rise

USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service has announced a proposed rule to increase the fees it charges meat and poultry establishments, egg processors, importers and exporters for providing voluntary inspection services, overtime and holiday inspection services, identification services, certification services and laboratory services for 2005 through 2008. The fee will increase from $43.64 per hour per program employee in 2005 to $49.93 in 2008. FSIS bears the cost of mandatory inspection of meat, poultry and egg products. However, businesses incur the costs of inspection services performed on holidays or on an overtime basis.