Improved food safety net

Now that Congress has overhauled the Consumer Product Safety Commission, lawmakers have turned their attention to the Food and Drug Administration. A bi-partisan group of senators and representatives has proposed the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act of 2008, which has garnered the support of an important industry group. Grocery Manufacturers Association President and CEO Cal Dooley says the food industry hopes Congress will act quickly to improve the nation’s food safety net.

The bill’s focus on prevention, along with its proposals providing FDA with mandatory recall authority and requiring stronger agricultural practices for fresh fruits and vegetables, Dooley states, provides the best opportunity to strengthen the public-private food safety partnership.

Labeling rules updated

USDA has issued an interim final rule for the mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL) program that will become effective on September 30. The rule covers muscle cuts and ground beef, veal, lamb, chicken, goat and pork; perishable agricultural commodities such as fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables; macadamia nuts; pecans; ginseng; and peanuts-as required by the 2002 and 2008 Farm Bills. USDA implemented the COOL program for fish and shellfish covered commodities in October 2004.

Commodities covered under COOL must be labeled at retail to indicate their country of origin. However, they are excluded from mandatory COOL if they are an ingredient in a processed food item.

USDA has also revised the definition of a processed food item so that items derived from a covered commodity that has undergone a physical or chemical change, like cooking, curing or smoking, or that has been combined with other covered commodities or other substantive food components, are excluded from COOL labeling.