FSMA under way

FDA puts FSMA provisions into first gear

The US FDA completed two tasks required by the new Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). It first issued an anti-smuggling strategy, and second, a draft guidance clarifying agency expectations on new dietary ingredients.

The FDA issued an anti-smuggling strategy developed by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in coordination with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which will help identify and prevent smuggled foods from entering the US and posing a threat to national security and consumer safety.

“The Food Safety Modernization Act requires the agency to build a new food safety system,” says Deputy Commissioner for Foods Michael R. Taylor. “This new system, overall, will better leverage the resources of federal agencies, and it will make industry an important partner in safeguarding the health of US consumers.”

FDA will work with US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in DHS to review historical data and better identify products, processors and countries of origin to establish food smuggling targeting criteria. The FDA and CBP will also share information on import shipments and conduct joint examinations, when appropriate, to identify shipments that may contain smuggled food. When possible, the agencies will work together to publicize food smuggling enforcement actions to deter others from attempting similar acts.

“Safeguarding the American public from unsafe or potentially harmful imported goods is a priority for US Customs and Border Protection,” says CBP Commissioner Alan D. Bersin. “CBP and FDA are working closer than ever to identify and prevent smuggled foods from entering the country, as well as streamline the flow of legitimate products.”

The FDA also issued draft guidance clarifying agency expectations on new dietary ingredients for industry, which is an important preventive control to ensure consumers are not exposed to unnecessary public health risks from new ingredients with unknown safety profiles.

Dietary supplement manufacturers are required to notify the FDA in advance when they intend to add a new dietary ingredient to their products, except in certain situations when the ingredient has been part of the food supply and has not been chemically altered for use in supplements. The notifications must identify the new dietary ingredient and be accompanied by evidence on its safety. The draft guidance is intended to inform and assist manufacturers, distributors and others in deciding when a pre-market safety notification for a dietary supplement containing a new dietary ingredient is necessary, as well as preparing pre-market safety notifications.

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Pilot trucking program cuts Mexican tariffs by 50 percent

The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) lauded an announcement by the US Department of Transportation (DOT) that a formal agreement on a pilot cross-border trucking program between Mexico and the US was signed. The agreement will reduce 50 percent of the tariffs imposed by Mexico on US cheese exports.

The tariffs have been in place since 2010 as a result of the US failure to comply with the trucking provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). In April, IDFA submitted comments to DOT supporting the new trucking program.

“We commend the administration for reaching this agreement that will pave the way for an immediate 50 percent reduction in Mexico’s retaliatory tariffs on several dairy products,” says Clay Hough, IDFA senior group vice president. “Mexico is our largest export market, so it’s important that this agreement moves forward in order for the trucking program to become permanent and the remaining 50 percent of the tariffs to be removed.”

Under the terms of the agreement, Mexico will remove the remaining 50 percent of the tariffs when the pilot program becomes permanent. Mexico is the largest export market for US dairy products, with more than $325 million in exports this year. However, the tariffs have threatened US market share for several popular cheeses, including parmesan, cheddar, Colby, Monterrey Jack and provolone, among others.  

The IDFA represents the nation’s dairy manufacturing and marketing industries and their suppliers, with a membership of 550 companies representing a $110 billion a year industry. IDFA is composed of three constituent organizations: the Milk Industry Foundation (MIF), the National Cheese Institute (NCI) and the International Ice Cream Association (IICA).

Canada expands organic market from US to Europe

Canada and the European Union have reached an historic agreement to recognize each other’s organic standards and laws, after nearly four years of formal negotiation, according to the Canada Organic Trade Association (COTA).

This is the world’s second such agreement. In June 2009, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the US Department of Agriculture signed the very first “organic equivalency arrangement,” which opened the significant US organic market to Canadian exports.

The global organic trade is now estimated at over $55 billion per year, with 96 percent of this represented by the US and EU markets. Canada is now the only country in the world able to deal directly with these two key markets through its domestic standards, according to COTA.

“This is an absolute game-changer for Canadian farmers and food manufacturers,” says Matthew Holmes, COTA executive director. COTA is an organic sector advisor to the government of Canada on international trade and market access. “With full access to European markets, suppliers and ingredients, Canada’s organic sector now has a strategic edge. This agreement will increase trade and boost Canada’s organic sector, from the farm to the consumer.”

COTA calculates the Canadian organic market has grown from $2 billion in 2008 to over $2.6 billion in 2010. Canadian companies annually export over $390 million worth of organic commodities, ingredients and products to the US, EU and other parts of the world. Since 2008, COTA has coordinated a Long-Term International Strategy for the organic sector, with roughly $500,000 in cumulative matching funds contributed through Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s AgriMarketing Program to support Canadian companies branding and marketing their organic products around the world.

Flavors of Tang in the Philippines. Source: Kraft Foods.

Developing markets pushes Tang to $1 billion status

Tang, the orange drink originally developed for astronauts in the American space program, has become a $1 billion product for Kraft, thanks to the popularity of new flavors in developing markets. Tamarind, Lemon pepper and Soursop are just a few of the exotic flavors responsible for a 20 percent growth in developing markets. The new markets include Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, the Philippines and the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries in the Middle East.

“In 2006, Tang was just over a $500 million brand,” says Sanjay Khosla, president, Kraft Foods Developing Markets. “And over the past four years alone, we’ve nearly doubled that, making Tang Kraft Foods 12th billion dollar icon.”

Package size was an issue, both in acceptance and sustainability. In many markets, traditional canisters of the product were too big. The processor designed smaller, more affordable sizes, such as two-liter packs in Mexico priced below $.50 (USD) and a single-serve packet in the Middle East.

Tang already uses less packaging than liquid beverages since it’s powdered. The company standardized its powdered beverage pouch size and structure across Latin America to eliminate 3 million pounds of packaging annually.

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