Raw sugar imports to increase    

USDA has announced plans to allow more sugar imports for the current fiscal year, addressing a tightening of supplies that could pose problems for some food manufacturers. The Commodity Credit Corporation says it will increase the raw sugar tariff rate quota (TRQ) by 200,000 tons.

“This action was taken after a determination that additional supplies of raw cane sugar are required in the US market,” USDA says in a statement. “The Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) will shortly announce country allocations of this TRQ increase.”

While food manufacturers generally welcomed the move, the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) says the increase is not enough to address the problem of rising sugar prices and declining supplies. “While this is a good start, we will continue to encourage government officials to increase the raw sugar TRQ by more tonnage so as to better remedy the supply crunch and price spike US sugar users currently face,” says Clay Hough, IDFA senior group vice president.

It’s possible the quota will be increased further. USDA says it will continue to closely monitor stocks, consumption, imports and all sugar market and program variables on an ongoing basis.

“USDA may need to make additional adjustments to import TRQs and domestic marketing allotments to ensure an adequate supply for the domestic market, avoid forfeitures, and prevent or correct market disruptions,” the agency says.

Debate over sodium levels in food continues    

Responding to a Congressional directive, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) last month called for maximum sodium limits in food products. In its report, IOM maintained the voluntary efforts by the food industry have not done enough to reduce sodium intake. “Americans consume unhealthy amounts of sodium in their food, far exceeding public health recommendations,” the report says.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) says it shares IOM’s concern about unhealthy sodium intake, but noted manufacturers currently offer plenty of healthy choices for consumers.

“For years, food companies have been introducing a wide variety of new products into the marketplace including reduced sodium, containing no sodium or low sodium, or with no added salt,” GMA says in a statement. “During that time, food companies have been very successful at making incremental reductions in sodium levels in food products that maintain consumer taste preferences.”