The Trump Administration’s Executive Orders requiring federal agencies to eliminate two regulations for every new regulation is adversely impacting the agencies responsible for food safety and nutrition. On July 20th, the federal government released the latest Unified Agenda of federal regulatory activities, which contained a new category for regulations requiring further review or consideration.
Within the Spring 2017 agenda, more than 100 regulatory measures were identified under this new category “inactive,” including significant regulations related to food labeling, organic agriculture and the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The impactful regulatory measures considered “inactive” in the food industry are detailed below:
Nutrition Labeling for Meat and Poultry
The USDA proposed rule, Revision of the Nutrition Facts Panels for Meat and Poultry Products and Updating Certain Reference Amounts Customarily Consumed (0583-AD56) was issued in January 2017, but it is now categorized as “inactive.” Based on the latest federal dietary guidelines for Americans, the proposed rule was closely aligned with the 2016 revisions of the FDA final rule for nutrition labeling. In fact, the USDA indicated meat and poultry products can voluntarily comply with the FDA’s Nutrition Facts label format finalized in 2016 while the USDA rule is being finalized. The comment period for the proposed rule closed on April 19th.
GM Food Labeling
As mandated by the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard, the USDA must complete regulations to “establish a national mandatory bioengineered food disclosure standard with respect to any bioengineered food and any food that may be bioengineered.” The genetically modified food labeling regulation was recently categorized as “inactive,” but the law still requires the agency to complete the rule by July 2018.
Under the 2016 law, companies will have three options for disclosing genetically engineered content on food packages: a labeling statement, a symbol or an electronic/digital link, such as a QR code, that will direct consumers to the bioengineering disclosure.
In June 2017, the USDA released a set of 30 questions for industry stakeholders to consider in support of the development of a proposed rule by the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). The questions are intended to solicit industry feedback on specific policy issues related to the biotech disclosure law. Recently, the agency extended the deadline for industry feedback until August 25th.
The new agenda suggests the USDA could advance regulations pertaining to the National Organic Program (NOP), including a proposed rule to establish animal welfare standards for organic livestock and poultry producers (0581-AD74), and a final rule for organic livestock and poultry practices (0581-AD44). However, the USDA AMS also demoted several organic regulations to the “inactive” list, including regulations for organic pet food standards, organic aquaculture standards and the origin of organic livestock.
FSMA Laboratory Accreditation
Industry stakeholders, including food manufacturers, importers and commercial laboratories, have long anticipated the FDA regulation for laboratory accreditation as mandated by the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Despite the potential significance of this rule for the food industry, the status of the laboratory accreditation rule was changed to “inactive” within the Spring 2017 agenda. The objective of laboratory accreditation per FSMA is to align commercial laboratories with government labs, which would facilitate the acceptance of analytical data, improve the efficiency of government labs and support the testing of food imports. To ensure consistent quality in laboratory testing and analytical data, accreditation of both foreign and domestic laboratories would be required for all regulatory testing.
Uncertain Regulatory Future
The future of the regulatory items listed as “inactive” is unclear, but the rules are not expected to advance for at least six months. In the meantime, the FDA is expected to issue a proposed rule by October 2017 to amend the authorization of health claims regarding the relationship between soy protein and coronary heart disease. Also, the Spring 2017 agenda indicated the FDA will issue a final rule for the gluten-free labeling of fermented, hydrolyzed or distilled foods by October 2018.
The postponement and reconsideration of several food regulations follows the recent FDA decision to delay the implementation of the menu labeling rule as well as the final rule related to the nutrition labeling of packaged foods.
In early May, the FDA extended the compliance date for the federal menu labeling requirements from May 5, 2017 to May 7, 2018. Under the federal rule, retail establishments with more than 20 locations, including restaurants, convenience stores and similar establishments, are required to post calorie information for standard menu items on printed menus, menu boards and drive-through menus. Despite the delay of the federal menu labeling rule, New York City began enforcing the city’s rules for menu labeling requirements in May for all food retailers with 15 locations or more nationwide.
Earlier this year, the food industry supported the postponement of the FDA nutrition labeling rule for packaged foods, but the delay was strongly opposed by many public health advocates. In May 2016, the FDA published the Nutrition Facts Panel final rule as well as a rule for updating the reference amounts customarily consumed and serving sizes. To date, the agency has not established a new deadline for the rules, but several trade groups have urged the FDA to extend the compliance date to 2021 in order to coincide with the expected deadline for the USDA’s regulation for the labeling of bioengineered foods.
Whether or not the deadline for nutrition labeling is extended, food manufacturers should prepare to comply with the new Nutrition Facts Panel regulations. Mérieux NutriSciences offers complete nutrition labeling options to ensure compliant labels. We offer nutrition labeling by laboratory analysis, calculated analysis or a combination of the two. Our Regulatory Compliance Specialists will help you determine which method is appropriate for your product. Customers also have the option to have a US FDA label created for their product. Contact us now to get started!
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.