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Nestlé announces $31-million expansion to Ohio quality assurance center

August 27th, 2016
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Facility in Dublin, Ohio, features microbiology lab, renovated chemistry lab

A Nestlé official says a $31-million expansion to its Quality Assurance Center in Dublin, Ohio, will help the company continue to anticipate and exceed food quality and safety standards.

The facility, which now serves as the lead quality assurance center for Nestlé’s businesses in the Americas, grew to 82,000 sq. ft., nearly double in size. The expansion also included the addition of a 32,000-sq.-ft. microbiology lab, a renovated chemistry lab and other amenities.

Aaron Ayres, director of the Dublin quality assurance center, says operations have been “ongoing,” but the facility’s official reopening was marked with a celebration on Aug. 10.

“With Nestlé products in 97 percent of U.S. households, consumers have a right to expect more from us – and we hold ourselves accountable for their safety,” Ayres says. “Our customers trust us to deliver on that commitment, and this expansion is a crucial element in strengthening that trust.”

More than 220 chemists, microbiologists, food scientists and quality specialists at the Dublin location provide specialized laboratory services, factory hygiene and food safety systems to Nestlé production facilities throughout the Americas. The Dublin center also has the capability to test Nestlé products, ingredients and manufacturing environments to verify that they meet regulatory requirements and the company’s own standards for quality and safety.

“Our philosophy on quality is that compliance is simply not enough,” Ayers says. “At NQAC Dublin, we go above and beyond food safety regulations to test products from farm to fork, from the environment to the raw ingredients to the packaging and finished product.”

Nestlé is among the supporters of the Food and Drug Administration’s Food Safety Modernization Act, which focuses on preventing food safety issues, rather than reacting to them when they occur. President Barack Obama signed the legislation into law on Jan. 4, 2011.

The Dublin expansion follows the grand opening of the $50-million Nestlé Research and Development Center in Solon, Ohio, in 2015. The 144,000-sq.-ft. facility employs 120 chefs, consumer researchers, packaging specialists, designers, engineers and scientists.

Source: Candy Industry

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European Food Safety Symposium comes to the UK

March 21st, 2015
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The food safety professionals from around Europe will be gathering to present and discuss topics that are challenging the production of safe food at a major European Symposium taking place in Cardiff in April, 20-22.

The event is being organized in collaboration with ILSI Europe and with the technical cooperation of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

The International Association for Food Protection’s European Symposium was started 11 years ago and has been shaping the future of food safety by providing a forum for the exchange of ideas with colleagues from across Europe working in industry, government and academia.

The Symposium is an excellent opportunity to gain knowledge about the latest developments and techniques in food science and safety and attracts hundreds of delegates and presenters.

Amongst the twenty five topics being considered will be: Virus testing; Risk Perception and Risk analysis. The Consumers’ View of Food Safety; Method Validation- Ensuring New Methods Meet the Requirements of European Legislation; Food Safety Decisions – Tools and Tips for Food Producers of Ready to Eat Foods; Current Issues in effective HACCP training; the Traceability Regulatory Environment in 21 OECD Countries; Risk Assessment of unintentional allergen cross contact, and much more.

The event has been supported by the Welsh Government and given local support by the UKAFP.

Source: World Bakers

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Food Safety Summit 2014 focuses on FSMA

May 10th, 2014
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More than 1,500 food safety professionals gathered at BNP Media’s 16th Annual Food Safety Summit (FSS) last month in Baltimore, MD to learn about the latest FSMA updates and how they will affect their companies’ businesses. They also heard the latest on food fraud and learned about traceability, prerequisite programs to manage food safety and quality, agricultural water issues, ways of preparing and responding to natural disasters, regulatory affairs and more. On the exhibit floor, where 178 vendors displayed their products and services, attendees found tools for functions such as managing food safety and track-and-trace systems, rapidly analyzing products for contamination and providing sanitation.

Speakers at FSS presented key information about FSMA updates and changes, which emphasize preventing any occurrences that could result in food contamination, rather than “putting out fires” as or after they occur. Sessions included “Enforcing FSMA Requirements Through an Integrated Food Safety System,” “Food Safety Hazards Revisited” and “Food Fraud/Economically Motivated Adulteration.”

In the Food Fraud presentation, Douglas Moyer, instructor at the Food Fraud Institute at Michigan State University, noted 11 mentions of “intentional adulteration” in FSMA. Moyer pointed out that the public comment period for Section 106 on Intentional Adulteration has been extended. He also encouraged food safety professionals to participate in rulemaking, emphasizing that in addition to considering terrorism of our food and water supplies as part of food defense, “food fraud should have a place at the table under the food protection umbrella.” Moyer added, “So if that’s the direction we’re going to take, we need to reopen preventive controls and talk about food fraud with respect to HACCP.” According to one change to FSMA, “catastrophic events” (traditionally food defense), adulteration by disgruntled employees and economically motivated adulteration are now placed under Preventive Controls.

While food processors do their best to maintain food safety and quality in their plants, problems can and do happen in transportation. A session entitled, “Storage and Distribution: The Forgotten Food Safety Link,” addressed these issues and included presenters from Dawn Foods, US Foods, The Acheson Group, Feeding America and Avendra. Dawn Food Products has a comprehensive set of global policies on preventive controls and system management aspects that are consistent with manufacturing and food safety standards such as IFS and FSMA. The company also has GFSI accreditations. Stephen Thome, vice president, global quality and food safety at Dawn Foods, asked why there shouldn’t be food safety systems in food logistics. “Between 2 and 12 percent of all food in the farm-to-fork cycle is lost. Reasons for losses include improper handling, temperature problems and products sitting too long on loading docks. If you look at this list, these are very solvable, common problems.” Thome added, “Issues like cross-contamination, spoiled product and pest infestation provide an economic incentive for all of us to improve [this situation].” Thome suggested that, with the creation of food safety management systems applied to logistics, much of this loss could be prevented.

Ed Lonergan, Chiquita Brands CEO, and Don Zietlow, CEO of Kwik Trip, Inc., shared their passion for food safety in the opening keynote. After the keynote, BNP Media’s Scott Wolters presented a donation on behalf of Chiquita Brands and Kwik Trip to Mitzi Baum, director of food safety for Feeding America. The nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief charity, Feeding America supplies food to more than 25 million Americans each year.

The FSS 13th Annual Food Quality and Safety Award was presented to Backyard Farms of Madison, ME for its contributions to food safety and consumer satisfaction with a positive impact on business results. The event began with a presentation by Sara Mortimore, vice president of product safety, quality assurance and regulatory affairs, Land O’Lakes.

Gina Nicholson, NSF Global client director of retail food services, presented the 11th Annual Food Safety Leadership Awards. The 2014 NSF Food Safety Leadership Lifetime Achievement Award was presented posthumously to William Keene, Ph.D., senior epidemiologist, acute & communicable disease prevention, Oregon Public Health Division. The 2014 NSF Food Safety Leadership Awards for Training and Education were presented to Jason Bashura, RS senior food defense analyst, FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (now working at PepsiCo), and Brian Nummer, extension food safety specialist, Utah State University.

Source: Food Engineering Magazine

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Mentoring programme leads to new guidelines to control foodborne diseases

November 15th, 2013
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codex_alimentariusAs production systems change and the food chain lengthens to meet the needs of a globalized industry, the potential for contamination at different points along that chain also changes. To address this, the Codex Alimentarius Commission in 2009 began updating its guidelines for establishing and implementing criteria to help ensure the microbiological safety of foods. These efforts quickly reached an impasse, however. Many countries, especially developing ones, felt unsure about the technical aspects and questioned how the guidelines would affect their food and trade sectors. In response, and with the support of FAO staff, Codex established a novel mentoring programme, setting up teams through which experienced country mentors worked with less-experienced mentees to simplify the setting of safety criteria. As a result, new guidelines were finalized by the Codex Committee on Food Hygiene in November 2012.

The Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC), the UN organization that sets the world’s food safety and quality standards, provides guidelines to aid countries in setting national standards and regulations that deal with, among others, microbiological contamination. In 2009, recognizing the impact of globalization of the food supply and the increased complexity of the food chain on produce safety, Codex set about updating its microbiological criteria guidelines. The aim was to meet the new realities surrounding food production and trade, and to take advantage of newly available risk-assessment approaches. Traditionally, food control standards called for end product testing – if a batch of food tested positive for contamination, it was withheld from marketing. If negative, it was considered safe for consumers.

But this strategy only tested a small portion of the food heading to market. Today, modern food-safety management places importance on implementing control measures all along the chain and on establishing criteria at different points in that chain. This not only catches problems earlier, it monitors whether the control efforts are working in situ or if corrective actions are needed. Yet, after three years, little progress had been made because many countries, especially developing ones, had difficulty understanding the new approaches and their practical applications. They were concerned that they lacked expertise or appropriate background data to establish and implement the new microbiological criteria. So when the Codex Committee on Food Hygiene (CCFH) suggested a mentoring programme to break down the complex issues into more comprehensible elements – with developed-country mentors sharing their knowledge through teams – the idea was immediately recognized for its merit.

Sharing knowledge to overcome hurdles
With FAO’s support, Codex set up seven teams, each focusing on a different potential hazard or commodity. The individual teams, which included an experienced mentor along with mentees from several less-experienced countries, met through virtual means for a year, honing their practical cases to inform the new guidelines. FAO staff facilitated the process by providing support on any communication, procedural or technical issues that arose as the participants worked together across different time zones and languages.

For the mentees, this had positive results on several levels. The mentoring process provided a valuable learning experience that heightened their understanding of, and ability to work with, a complex subject. When all the teams gathered for a working group meeting in Parma, Italy, in May 2012, they were able to share their knowledge, data and learning experiences with members of the other teams and to meet key national experts, which enabled them to set up future exchanges. For example, in order to strengthen its knowledge in risk analysis for the poultry sector, Colombia can draw on the relationship with its mentor, Denmark, to increase its understanding, use and application of microbiological criteria, and support the ongoing risk assessment process.

Increased knowledge and awareness leads to new standards
Codex has always dealt with microbiological criteria through guidelines rather than strict food standards, in order to allow countries the flexibility of adapting or adopting the guidelines that best fit their food systems. When drafting the guidelines, care was taken to ensure that the concepts explored and elaborated by the teams were factored in. Thus, when the guidelines were presented to the CCFH in November 2012, developing countries recognized that their voices were also a part of the document, and after three years of delay, the Committee agreed on the guidelines and sent them to the CAC for final adoption in July 2013. These guidelines will inform approaches taken at national level on the use of microbiological criteria in food-safety management, supporting national efforts to ensure safety and, thus, contribute to the control of foodborne illnesses.

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Agroterrorism defense: Are you prepared?

February 15th, 2013
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eggs-0Researchers are studying ways to reduce risk in the food supply chain.

When we think of terrorist targets, skyscrapers and monuments probably come to mind before the national food supply. But researchers at Georgia Tech’s School of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISyE) warn that the food supply is vulnerable and have urged the government and industry stakeholders to develop a plan to protect against biological, chemical, physical or radioactive contamination of the food supply.

To help address the threat, researchers are developing a model of food supply chains that can be used in the formulation of a protection plan. Associate Professor Alan Erera leads the six-year, $1 million research project that began in 2010.

“Our goal is to help make sure food products are safe from farm to fork by identifying food supply chain designs that ensure a high level of system productivity while mitigating the risks posed by intentional attacks on the food supply chain,” says Erera.

The model’s first application determines vulnerabilities in the supply chain for liquid eggs. Researchers tested adaptability scenarios including reducing the amount of liquid egg in each tank, housing the liquid egg in several facilities instead of just one, increasing the frequency of tank cleanings, changing the timing of certain activities and increasing security.

Each strategy has its advantages and drawbacks. For example, while reducing the amount of egg per container could decrease the total potential contamination, it would likely drive production costs higher. And while spreading operations out between multiple smaller facilities could also decrease the potential for large-scale contamination, production and security costs would tick up.

Erera’s team wants to find a way to significantly mitigate risk in the supply chain with only a small investment. To do that, they will continue to improve the model’s accuracy by studying other food products. Eventually, researchers hope to make recommendations for different industries about how best to protect products against a terrorist attack.

Source: Food Enginering

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Traceability systems needed to increase trust in food safety

November 23rd, 2012
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A new study from Canada’s Conference Board says one step forward and one step backward in the supply chain is a simple, robust and cost-effective method of traceability.

The number of recalls in Canada, the US and the rest of the world point to the need for a robust system of traceability to protect the safety and quality of the food supply. In a new publication for its Centre for Food in Canada, The Conference Board of Canada recommends that all players in the food supply chain be able to trace where they got a product or ingredient, and where they sent or sold that product or a product containing that ingredient. In other words, each producer or processor in the food supply chain needs to be able to accurately trace its products or ingredients one step forward and one step backward in the supply chain, according to the publication, Forging Stronger Links: Traceability and the Canadian Food Supply Chain.

“Food traceability is a vital part of the food risk management system: it underpins Canadians’ trust in food safety, quality and healthiness,” says Alison Howard, principal research associate. “The ability to trace a product’s journey from point of sale back to its origin is a vital part of today’s risk management system.”

Many Canadian food processors already comply with the principle of one-step-forward and one-step-backward because of export requirements, private standards and/or their own internal food safety practices. To be fully effective, however, traceability systems must all link together so the entire food supply chain is covered. The one-step forwards and backwards approach to traceability can be universally implemented, but at the same time, it lessens the financial burden borne by processors.

While it might be ideal for processors and producers to trace a product or ingredient throughout the entire supply chain, such a process is extremely complex and prohibitively expensive. Furthermore, evaluations of this kind of system found little or no benefit to food safety, so it may not actually be a great improvement over the one-step-forward and the one-step-backward approach.

The report highlights actions governments, industry and others can take to strengthen the role of traceability in the supply chain:

  • Mandate minimum traceability requirements so suppliers can trace their products and ingredients one step forward and one step backward.
  • Make traceability systems universal and comprehensive.
  • Develop traceability systems to be compatible, so information about food products can be communicated quickly and easily throughout the supply chain and with government authorities in the event of a safety problem.
  • Make premises identification mandatory for poultry and livestock producers.
  • Require detailed information to handle emergencies quickly.
  • Help fund firm’s startup costs and encourage flexible, cost-effective systems.
  • Promote the benefits of participation in traceability systems to all players in the food supply chain.
  • Use continuous evaluation to improve system performance.

For more information on the publication or to download it, visit The Conference Board of Canada’s website. Visit the Centre for Food in Canada.

Source: Food Engineering

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FSMA and its impact on the packaging line

August 3rd, 2012
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By now, food processors around the US—and the world—are familiar with the basic principles behind FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) signed into law in January 2011. Though new requirements mandated by FSMA are still being shaped, this piece of legislation represents the most extensive update to American food safety laws for more than 70 years, and expands FDA’s ability to access records during inspections and food emergencies. Put simply, food processors must have thorough plans in place for tracking their production process and distribution—and then effectively implement them, according to Tom Egan, vice president, industry services, PMMI.

“For some brand owners, compliance—and demonstrating compliance with new regulations—will be more of a challenge than for others,” says Egan. “For example, new regulations posed by FSMA will require processors of dry food products, including snack foods, baked goods, cereals and dry pet food, to implement preventative measures that combat microbiological hazards on their packaging lines.

“As makers of low-moisture foods, players in these industries hadn’t had to worry much about microbiological growth thus far because their dry products are not easy conductors of pathogens,” adds Egan. Meanwhile, manufacturers of meat, poultry, seafood and dairy products adhered to more rigorous standards in sanitary packaging equipment design for years as their products present a need for greater control of microbiological growth, he says.

“With the new standards applied to processors of low-moisture products, manufacturers of dry foods can gain inspiration from the meat and dairy industries on what changes can help them ensure compliance,” says Egan. “The first thing to know is the motto, ‘If you can’t see it, you can’t clean it.’ Nooks and crannies are difficult to clean, and provide an ideal environment for bacteria growth. Eliminating any space where water can collect is a priority—flat surfaces included.” Some manufacturers have worked with their suppliers to design angled tops for electrical cabinets and other machinery. By eliminating a collection point on their equipment, a potential location for pathogens can be strongly mitigated, according to Egan.

Food manufacturers are also taking greater measures to prevent cross-contamination in the packaging process. Certain ingredients, such as nuts, are widely recognized allergens. “To mitigate any risk of unintentionally mixing certain ingredients—nuts in our example—with other products on a packaging line, companies can benefit from more modular designs,” says Egan. Take capping equipment for example. Some food and beverage manufacturers utilize capping machines that offer multiple package handling modules for each set of distinct products that run on the line. This way, a module that applies caps to containers of product “X” can be removed and cleaned while modules that apply caps to product “Y” are installed and running, according to Egan. “Though there is a greater upfront investment for equipment with multiple modules, companies stand to enhance efficiency with less downtime associated with cleaning and increase their ROI.”

Of course, FSMA will affect more than just the packaging process for food and beverage manufacturers. “New regulations mandate that processors must have a full plan identifying a chain of accountability for suppliers of equipment, materials and product ingredients,” says Egan. “It is not expected that existing equipment will simply be grandfathered into compliance by the FDA. If a processor cannot make updates to a current line, a detailed plan should be developed and put in place outlining a verified cleaning and testing regimen.”

These mandates come in addition to more rigorous recordkeeping mandates. It’s a large undertaking to track ingredients and materials from farm to fork, and processors should work closely with their suppliers to implement changes or to better understand what measures they’ll need to take in continuing to use their legacy lines, advises Egan.

For food and beverage manufacturers seeking solutions to help with FSMA compliance, PACK EXPO International 2012 (October 28 – 31; McCormick Place, Chicago) will provide the largest venue for processing and packaging innovations, with more than 1,800 solutions providers and a number of education opportunities.

Source: Food Engineering

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Codex strengthens food-safety regulations

July 6th, 2012
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The Codex Alimentarius Commission, jointly run by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), on July 4 announced new food-safety regulations, including the maximum level of melamine in liquid milk formula for babies, and new food-safety standards on seafood, melons, dried figs and food labeling.

Two years ago, the Codex Commission adopted a maximum melamine level of 1 mg/kg for powdered infant formula and of 2.5 mg/kg for other foods and animal feed. The Commission has now set a maximum limit of 0.15 mg/kg for melamine in liquid infant milk. Melamine is used to make dishware and kitchenware, among other industrial applications. The new limit will help governments protect consumers by determining if detected levels of melamine result from unavoidable melamine contamination that does not cause health problems or from deliberate adulteration.

Aflatoxins, a group of mycotoxins produced by molds, are toxic and are known to be carcinogenic. They can be found in a variety of products, such as dried fruits, nuts, spices and cereals at high levels if the produce is not stored properly. The Commission now agreed a safe maximum limit of 10 mg/kg for dried figs, together with details on how test sampling should be conducted.

An emerging public health issue relates to the increased popularity of pre-cut melon slices. Exposed pulp of the fruit can become a breeding ground for bacteria. This has been linked to life-threatening Salmonella and Listeria outbreaks. The Commission recommended that pre-cut melons should be wrapped or packaged and refrigerated as soon as possible and distributed at temperatures of 4° C or less. Cooling and cold-storing was recommended as soon as possible after harvest, while knife blades used for cutting or peeling should be disinfected on a regular basis.

Food hygiene in seafood, particularly for mollusks, such as mussels and oysters, have become a major food-safety concern. The Commission adopted a set of preventive hygiene measures aimed to control foodborne viruses. The Commission noted that the main hazard for the production of mollusks, such as oysters and mussels, was the biological contamination of the waters in which they grow. It is therefore important to ensure the seawater quality of growing areas. When there is a likelihood or evidence of viral contamination, closure of the area, destruction of contaminated mollusks and/or heat treatment before consumption of already harvested mollusks is recommended.

Codex recommended that food manufacturers across the world label nutritional content on their products to ensure that consumers are better informed; the recommendation is in line with WHO’s Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health and is a major step forward in promoting healthy eating worldwide.

Source: World Health Organization

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Kausal 2012

February 25th, 2012
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The 5th International Congress on Self-Control and Food Safety – KAUSAL 2012 will be held from 17 – 19 October in Barcelona with the theme All together, safer food. This conference is the leading scientific meeting on the present and future of self-control and food safety throughout the food chain as well as a meeting point for professionals working in food safety.

At this year’s congress, they seek to reflect on the importance of sharing a common goal: to provide safe foods. Working in coordination: companies, public administrations, research centers and citizens; collaborating with those involved in every stage of the food chain, from primary production to the final consumer; they will be able to guarantee food safety and offer markets and consumers foods they can trust.

During the congress, they will address all relevant leading issues at present including:

  • The self-control current situation in the EU: Where are we and where are we heading to?
  • The role of self-control in international trade and the role of private certification
  • The challenge of self-control system implementation in the primary sector and in small and medium-sized enterprises
  • The latest advances in the identification of emerging hazards, different verification and validation systems, fast screening methods for analysis and leading systems for critical point control
  • Innovative food safety management systems for companies, using ‘smart solutions’
  • Consumer perception on food safety and self-control and the importance of communication in highlighting our commitment to establish a global food safety culture

The congress is aimed at quality professionals and food companies, university staff, public administration staff, consultancy firms, scientific bodies and, in general, food safety professionals working from primary production to the final consumer.

 

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Food chemical regulations rely heavily on industry self-policing and lack transparency

October 29th, 2011
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Safety decisions concerning one-third of the more than 10,000 substances that may be added to human food were made by food manufacturers and a trade association without review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), according to an analysis spearheaded by the Pew Health Group.

The report, published  in the peer-reviewed journal Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, illustrates potential problems with the U.S. food additive regulatory program.

“Congress established our food additive regulatory program more than 50 years ago, and it does not stand up well to scrutiny based on today’s standards of science and public transparency,” said Tom Neltner, Food Additives Project director in the Pew Health Group.

The research also found that the FDA developed an expedited process in the mid-1990’s that essentially eliminated the opportunity for public involvement in decision making prior to FDA’s safety determination. This shift doubled the rate of industry requests for FDA review. In contrast, standard operating procedure for other federal regulatory decisions regarding drug, workplace, and environmental safety requires public notice and an opportunity to comment.

“While the shift to a new regulatory process–one in which companies make safety decisions and ask FDA to confirm them–has sped up agency review, it has also bypassed the public,” Neltner said. “Subjecting safety decisions to comment from competitors, academic scientists, public interest groups, and the general public can result in stronger protections for consumers. In an age of growing demand for government transparency, there is virtually no meaningful opportunity for participation in decisions about large classes of substances added to the food supply.”

When Congress passed the Food Additives Amendment of 1958, it created a structure that has limited the FDA’s ability to effectively regulate substances added to food because the law:

Allows manufacturers to determine that the use of an additive is “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS), and then use that substance without notifying the FDA. As a result, the agency is unaware of many substances that may be added to food and lacks the ability to ensure that safety decisions were properly made.

Does not require that manufacturers inform the FDA when health reports suggest new hazards associated with additives already used in food. Therefore, the agency has no access to unpublished reports and must expend limited resources sifting through published information to identify potential problems and set priorities.

In addition to the article examining the state of the food additive regulation, a piece in the same publication summarizes a workshop, co-sponsored by the Institute of Food Technologists and the journal Nature, examined how FDA evaluates the potential hazards posed by substances added to food. The two-day session, held in April 2011, brought together science and food policy experts from government, industry, academia, and public interest organizations. Issues discussed at the workshop and presented in the journal article include:

The need for clear procedures to develop validated toxicological tests and regularly revise guidance documents to reflect advances in science;

Opportunities to improve academic research to make it more usable for regulatory decision making and enhance coordination between federal agencies; and

Challenges to reassessing a chemical’s safety after it is on the market.

Both journal articles appear in the November issue of Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety. They are the first in a series of the Pew Health Group’s assessments of the scientific evidence and FDA’s regulatory system, evaluating whether the agency ensures chemicals added to food are safe as required by law. Future articles will consider other aspects of the scientific analysis and the law, and will provide case studies of issues raised about the FDA’s food additives program. The Pew Health Group will develop policy recommendations to reduce unnecessary and hidden risks that are informed by their evaluation.

Source: The Pew Charitable Trusts

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