Tuesday, April 28, 2009

FDA Comments on Nutrition Symbols Public Hearing

FDA developed a memorandum discussing the agency’s September 2007 Public Hearing, Use of Symbols to Communicate Nutrition Information, Consideration of Consumer Studies and Nutritional Criteria. The memorandum responds to the comments submitted and presented by participants of the public hearing.

The document also explains the FDA still lacks sufficient data to answer all the questions surrounding the use of front-of-pack nutrition symbols. In particular, FDA received little information on consumer understanding and use of nutrition symbols or the economic impacts of nutrition symbols on food labels.

The full document is available here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

What Do Bill Marler and Ashton Kutcher Have in Common?

In a Twitter challenge to reach one million followers, Ashton Kutcher donated 10,000 bed nets to fight malaria in Africa.  Now the Bill Marler set out a challenge to reach just 25,000 followers by the end of the month. If he does, he will donate $25,000 to the best charity suggested by the Twitter folks.

You can get to Bill on Twitter at @bmarler.  Read more about the challenge here.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Stronger Partnerships for Safer Food

George Washington University Professor Michael R. Taylor and the Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO), the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), and the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) today released a new report, Stronger Partnerships for Safer Food: An Agenda for Strengthening State and Local Roles in the Nation’s Food Safety System.

With attention direction toward federal food safety reform, the vital contributions of state and local agencies are often forgotten. Food safety reform will be incomplete and insufficient unless an integrated national food safety system takes full advantage of and enhances the contribution state and local agencies.

The report outlines the current roles of federal, state, and local agencies in protecting Americans against foodborne illness.  It contains 27 findings on the strengths and weaknesses in illness surveillance, outbreak response, regulation, and inspection. The report makes 19 specific recommendations for strengthening state and local roles and for building an integrated national food safety system that works effectively to prevent foodborne illness. It is the product of a collaborative project involving the GW School of Public Health and Health Services, AFDO, ASTHO, and NACCHO and funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

"Cheat Death" Fruit Juice Ad Banned

An advertisement for POM Wonderful read, “Cheat Death. The antioxidant power of pomegranate juice.” POM Wonderful offered the “no one would take it serious” defense. While consumers are unlikely to believe the juice would make them immortal, some may believe the product somehow contributed to a longer life, concluded the UK Advertising Standards Authority. The claim for longer life was not substantiated and was banned. The article in the UK Telegraph is here.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Would Dietary Supplements and Cosmetics Find a Home in a New Food Safety Administration?

This blog summarized the Trust for America’s Health report, “Keeping America’s Food Safe: A Blueprint for Fixing the Food Safety System at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services?” earlier.

More recently, Ricardo Carvajal published some insightful questions on the Blueprint and other proposals for a single Food Safety Administration (FSA).  These proposal raise the “question of whether FDA’s dietary supplements and cosmetics programs should be housed in a new FSA or in the medical products agency that would remain once FDA’s food safety functions have been split off.”

Dietary supplements are defined as foods under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.  Yet, the Blueprint appears to suggest that dietary supplements should be regulated by the medical products agency because they often are marketed for drug-like effects.

Ironically, the fear that FDA would regulate dietary supplement as drugs was a significant force behind passage of the Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA). DSHEA was a significant rebuke to idea of treating dietary supplements like drugs.

Passing an statute to create a new Food Safety Administration is a monumental task. Hardly the time to exhume issues that Congress has already settled. This issue could kill the Blueprint’s chance of passage.

Mr. Carvajal  notes,

It strikes us as curious that the decision of where to house the dietary supplement and cosmetics programs would be based to any degree on the fact that unlawful marketing claims might be made for those products (a problem that needs to be addressed through enforcement), or that some consumers might seek those products out for their “drug-like” effects (what is to become of coffee?).  In any case, we thought that Congress had definitively settled the question as to how dietary supplements should be regulated – as food – and that nothing about the recent or current food safety crises suggests otherwise.  As for cosmetics, their regulatory paradigm has long resembled the one for foods much more strongly than the one for drugs.

Read all of  Ricardo Carvajal, “Would Dietary Supplements and Cosmetics Find a Home in a New Food Safety Administration?” here.

FDA Seeking Comments on Retail HACCP Manual

FDA is seeking comments on its Voluntary Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point Manuals for Operators and Regulators of Retail and Food Service Establishments. The Operator's Manual contains information and recommendations for operators of retail and foodservice establishments who wish to develop and implement a voluntary food safety management system based on Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) principles. The Regulator's Manual contains recommendations for state, local, and tribal regulators on conducting risk-based inspections of retail and foodservice establishments, including recommendations about recordkeeping practices that can assist operators in preventing foodborne illness.  The full notice is available here.

GAO Report: Seafood Fraud

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report, "Seafood Fraud: FDA Program Changes and Better Collaboration among Key Federal Agencies Could Improve Detection and Prevention." GAO-09-258 (Feb. 19, 2009).  Highlights are available at: http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d09258high.pdf.

Monday, April 06, 2009

People Will Make Healthier Choices If Restaurants Provide Nutritional Data, Study Finds

ScienceDaily reports on a new study showing potential benefits for nutrition labeling in restaurants. The study shows that nutritional information can help consumers moderate their eating over time. 

A field study, experiment, and consumer food diaries were used to explore how nutrition information disclosure on menus may influence consumers’ product evaluations and consumption behaviors.  Howlett et al., Coming to a Restaurant Near You? Potential Consumer Responses to Nutrition Information Disclosure on Menus. Journal of Consumer Research, 2009; 090325111256050 DOI: 10.1086/598799.

Save 20% on Food Regulation Text

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If you would like more information, a summary is available here. The full Table of Contents is available here.  A free copy of Chapter One is available here

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Thursday, April 02, 2009

Health Canada Guidance on Food-like Natural Health Products

In Canada, natural health products and foods are regulated under the Food and Drugs Act (FDA) and its regulations. Products that meet the definition of a “natural health product” under the Natural Health Product Regulations (NHPR) are subject to the FDA. Products that are “food” as defined by the FDA are subject to regulation under the food requirements of the FDA and to Parts A, B and D of the Food and Drug Regulations (FDR).

Since implementing the Natural Health Product Regulations (NHPR) in 2004, Health Canada has received several hundred product license applications for products in food format (e.g., energy drinks, vitamin or mineral supplements in candy, and water with added vitamins or minerals). These products have characteristics of both natural health products (NHPs) and foods. There have been regulatory challenges in classifying these products. Are they food-like NHPs or NHPs in food form?

Health Canada provides a new guidance document that outlines the principles and consideration to be applied in determining if a product in a food format is a natural health product.