The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is poised to release a steady flow of new food regulations under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and is taking further action on its own to phase out trans fats and antibiotics in meat and to introduce initiatives to reduce the presence of sodium and caffeine. The pros and cons of genetically-modified organisms (GMS) also are expected to be taken up by Congress in the coming year.
Several rules are expected to be released under the FSMA. By Thursday, the FDA must issue an FSMA rule to combat terrorist attacks up on the food supply. This will be followed during the early part of 2014 with proposed rules on food shipping, as well as an electronic portal to make it easier to report hazardous foods. Michael Taylor, the FDA’s first ever deputy commissioner for foods, calls this an unprecedented sea change in national food policy.
The trans fat removal initiative closes to public comment January 7. It seeks to ban trans fats – hydrogenated vegetable oil. By removing trans fats from the list of generally regarded as safe (GRAS) ingredients, Manufacturers would be unable to use or sell trans fats as a product or ingredient.
Later in the year, the agency also is expected to release voluntary guidelines that strongly encourage food manufacturers to reduce the sodium and caffeine content of their products, taking aim squarely at energy drinks while sparing coffee and tea. Last week, in an attempt to fight drug resistant microbes, the FDA introduced a plan to limit the use of antibiotics administered to livestock. That plan has a three-year phase-in period.
The food industry itself is likely to propose regulations, also. Rather than fight the anti-GMO movement at every turn, the industry is considering proposing voluntary labeling requirements in the form of federal legislation to identify foods that may contain GMOs.
According to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, M.D., “Approximately 8 million Americans, or 1 in 6, get sick each year from the food they eat, and of those, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die.” Therefore, prevention is taking a key role in food safety efforts.