After a flood of food regulations during President Obama’s administration, the food regulatory environment in the United States could experience a drought in new regulations due to the deregulatory philosophy of the Trump administration and the U.S. Congress.
In April, President Trump signed an executive order with the objective of eliminating unnecessary “regulatory burdens” for the agricultural sector. Earlier this year, the U.S. House passed legislation (H.R. 5), referred to as the “filthy food act” by opponents, which would impede the development of new food regulations. The U.S. Senate is expected to vote on the bill later this month.
Despite the uncertain regulatory environment, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continues to move forward with implementing the rules of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). As the compliance date recently passed for the sanitary transportation rule, the Foreign Supplier Verification Program rule will take effect later this month. Meanwhile, the FDA extended the compliance date for the restaurant menu labeling rule this week, and the agency is expected to postpone enforcement of the final rule for revised Nutrition Facts Panels on packaged foods.
In Canada, the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) were introduced earlier this year, and the government closed the public comment period for the proposals on April 21. The development of regulatory measures stemming from the Safe Food for Canadians Act should continue, including efforts to modernize food labeling. Recently, Health Canada introduced a proposal to ban partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) as a means to reduce trans fats from the Canadian diet.
Following is a synopsis of recent regulatory activities in North America:
FSMA Rules Coming Into Force
Ready or not, it is now time to comply with the FDA’s final rule for the sanitary transportation of food. As mandated by the FSMA law, the majority of shippers, receivers and carriers that transport human and/or animal food must implement sanitary transportation practices to mitigate food safety risks. Large businesses were required to comply with the new requirements by April 6, 2017, but the FDA is not expected to begin inspections related to the rule until later this year.
The Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP), Voluntary Qualified Importer Program (VQIP) and accredited third-party certification were the most significant FSMA regulations related to improving the safety of imported foods. Under the FSVP rule, importers are responsible for numerous activities, including determining known or foreseeable hazards, evaluating their supplier’s performance and conducting supplier verification activities. The FDA will expect large businesses to be in compliance with the FSVP rule by May 27, 2017.
Health Canada to Ban PHOs
Health Canada has proposed a ban of the use of partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) in foods as part of a national effort to reduce the primary dietary source of artificial trans fat in the food supply. As proposed, Health Canada will add PHOs to its List of Contaminants and Other Adulterating Substances in Food, which would essentially ban PHOs from the Canadian food supply.
The Canadian proposal is aligned with the U.S. FDA’s 2015 decision to withdraw the ‘generally recognized as safe’ (GRAS) status of PHOs. Due to a link between the artificial trans fat and coronary heart disease, the FDA advised food manufacturers to “either reformulate products without PHOs and/or petition the FDA to permit specific uses of PHOs” within three years.
The Health Canada proposal is closely aligned with the FDA’s rule, including the proposed compliance date of June 18, 2018. To dissuade Canadian manufacturers from replacing PHOs with saturated fats, the Canadian proposal also seeks to require a front of pack warning proposed to alert consumers to products high in saturated fats. The agency is accepting public comments on the Notice of Proposal until June 21, 2017.
Expect Delays with the FDA’s Labeling Rules
This week, the FDA extended the compliance date for menu labeling requirements to May 7, 2018. Chain restaurants and similar food establishments have been preparing to comply with the federal menu labeling requirements by the original deadline of May 5, 2017. Retail establishments with more than 20 locations, including restaurants, convenience stores and other establishments, will be required to post calorie information for standard menu items on printed menus, menu boards, and drive-through menus. The FDA issued the final guidance for the menu labeling rule in April 2016.
The Nutrition Facts rule was published in May 2016 in conjunction with a related final rule for updated serving sizes. Food companies with $10 million or greater in annual sales are currently required to comply with the Nutrition Facts labeling requirements by July 26, 2018.
Several industry groups, including the Grocery Manufacturers Association, have urged the FDA to postpone the upcoming 2018 compliance deadline for the Nutrition Facts rule until May 2021. Susan Mayne, Director of FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, publicly confirmed the agency is considering the requests and might postpone the rules to coincide with USDA’s upcoming rule for the mandatory disclosure of bioengineered ingredients.
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Meet the Author
Information Services Manager, Mérieux NutriSciences
Patrick Kennedy is the Information Services Manager for Mérieux NutriSciences. He has over 15 years of food industry experience and has written extensively covering a wide range of food safety and regulatory subjects. He holds a MS degree in information science from the University of Illinois, and is a member of several industry organizations including AOAC, IFT and IAFP.