The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) recently released the Fall 2018 Unified Agenda of Regulatory Actions, which outlines the rulemaking actions currently under development in each federal agency. This memorandum summarizes the major actions that may be of particular interest to the food industry that are being planned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), and Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). After highlighting the most significant priorities, we provide charts for each agency that provide additional details on their plans. More information can be found by clicking on the blue link next to each item, which will take you to a specific page about each agenda item on OMB’s website.

We want to caution that the dates included in the Unified Agenda are not commitments to act on or by the date shown and simply indicate the agencies’ aspirations. Rather than focusing on projected dates, the Unified Agenda is a valuable tool to identify the substantive issues the agencies consider to be priorities for rulemaking.

Click here for more information. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released the first of three installments of its long awaited Draft Guidance to support compliance with the Mitigation Strategies to Protect Food Against Intentional Adulteration (IA) rule. Under the IA rule, the last of the major FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) rules to be released, food facilities must develop and implement a food defense plan that identifies their significant vulnerabilities and mitigation strategies to address those vulnerabilities, and they must take steps to ensure those mitigation strategies are working. This first installment includes the first four chapters of the Draft Guidance, which provide FDA’s recommendations on how to develop a food defense plan, including one particular method for conducting a vulnerability assessment to identify significant vulnerabilities and actionable process steps, developing mitigation strategies for actionable process steps, and monitoring mitigation strategies. It also contains templates for various components of a food defense plan.

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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released an Excel file that lists all general inspection citations included on every FDA Form 483 (Inspectional Observations) issued for almost the past ten years, from October 2008 through February 2018. The information is specific to each establishment that has been inspected by FDA across all areas of the agency’s jurisdiction, including food facilities. We encourage all food companies to review their data so that they are aware of the information that is now readily available for review by the public.

The release of these inspection citations is connected to the Open Government Initiative issued by President Obama on January 21, 2009. Pursuant to this initiative, the agency’s stated purpose for now releasing this data set is to “improve the public’s understanding of how the FDA works to protect the public health, provide the public with a rationale for the Agency’s enforcement actions, and to help inform public and industry decision-making.” Pursuant to this initiative, the data set provides information on general inspection citations under all areas of FDA jurisdiction.

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On January 11, 2018, the Food and Drug Administration issued its 2018 Strategic Policy Roadmap (the Roadmap) in an effort to provide transparency about the FDA’s policy undertakings. The Roadmap outlines key priorities that the Agency will pursue in 2018 to advance its public health mission. The Roadmap covers all FDA-regulated product areas and includes the following priorities related to food:

  • Empower consumers to make better and more informed decisions about their diets and health; and expand the opportunities to use nutrition to reduce morbidity and mortality from disease
  • Strengthen FDA’s scientific workforce and its tools for efficient risk management

FDA notes that there are areas of overlap both between all priorities mentioned as well as with other aspects of work at FDA. Importantly, for food regulation, FDA outlined how it will continue to focus on implementing the new Nutrition Facts Panel and menu labeling regulations and associated guidance, as well as continuing to implement FSMA and the associated field realignment that now
has a dedicated cadre of food (and feed) inspectors. Other noteworthy inclusions on the nutrition and labeling side are revisions to the “healthy” claims regulations, updating food standards to promote public health, providing new opportunities to make ingredient information more helpful to consumers, and advancing guidance on dietary sodium reduction. On the food safety side, FDA will
continue to build its pathogen database networks and, under FSMA, implement preventive controls rules and pay particular attention to implementing the produce safety rule through increased training and collaboration with the states.

We provide an overview of FDA’s priority areas, and the corresponding goals and action items, most relevant to food policy.

Click here to read our overview.

On 1 February 2018, the European Commission issued a notice on the impact of Brexit for food products originating from the UK. The Commission confirmed that, in the absence of a transitional agreement, the UK will become a ‘third country’ from the date of its withdrawal from the EU. This will impact a number of key areas of EU food regulation, including:

  • Food labelling: changes will need to be made to labels of food products originating from the UK. An EU-based importer must be named on the product, and mandatory references to the origin of products will need to be changed from “EU” to “UK” or “non-EU”.
  • Food composition, contaminant levels and food contact materials: UK-produced food sold in the EU will remain subject to EU rules including requirements for certain ingredients to be authorised by the Commission (e.g. additives and flavourings and novel foods), maximum permitted levels of contaminants and residues in foodstuffs, and rules on food contract materials. These apply to all foods placed on the EU market, irrespective of the place of production.
  • EU establishment requirements and submission of EU authorisations: some products such as genetically modified food must have a food business operator, authorisation holder or a representative that is established in the EU. Establishments in the UK will no longer comply with this requirement. The Food Standards Agency, the UK’s competent authority, will also no longer be able to accept applications for EU authorisations such as for the cultivation and placing on the market of genetically modified materials, and for use of new materials in food contact materials.
  • Food of animal origin: the import of food of animal origin from the UK into the EU will be prohibited, unless certain requirements are met. These include:
    • the UK must be listed by the Commission as an approved third country for the export of each category of food of animal origin. The Commission has not addressed whether the UK will automatically be approved post-Brexit or whether the UK will need to apply for authorisation as a third country;
    • the establishment from which the food is dispatched and obtained or prepared must further be approved for the export of the specific category of food of animal origin;
      the imported food satisfies all EU food hygiene requirements; and
    • the product will be subject to mandatory border checks and must enter the EU through approved border inspection posts of a remaining Member State.
  • Organic products: UK-originating organic foods will be subject to the same regulation as organic foods entering the EU from other third countries. In particular, all consignments of organic products must be accompanied by a certificate of inspection on import to the EU. These certificates can be issued by an authorised EU organic control body or authority or a non-EU control body or authority recognised as having equivalent standards as the EU. Certificates issued by UK bodies will no longer be valid.

The full notice published by the Commission is available here. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued Draft Guidance on public warning and notification of recalls under 21 C.F.R. Part 7, and has announced steps to release recall information more quickly. The Draft Guidance provides recommendations to industry and FDA staff regarding the use, content, and circumstances for issuing public warnings and public notifications, and also discusses the parties responsible for issuing public warnings.  The document’s recommendations apply to all voluntary recalls, including both firm-initiated and FDA-requested recalls, and covers food, dietary supplements, and cosmetics (and other FDA-regulated products). Importantly, the Draft Guidance discusses the release of retail consignee information as a part of public warnings of recalls and signals that there may be more to come from FDA in this area. In addition, FDA issued a blog post, reflecting the Draft Guidance, announcing that the agency has adopted a new policy to release recall information in FDA’s weekly Enforcement Report, even when the recall has not yet been classified.

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued five FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) final and draft guidance documents relating to supplier verification under both the Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP) and the Preventive Controls for Human Food (PCHF) rules, as well as draft guidance regarding the Preventive Controls for Animal Food (PCAF) rule.
We briefly summarize the issues addressed in each of the following documents:

  • FSVP Draft Guidance;
  • Chapter 15 (Supply-Chain Program) of the Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Food Draft Guidance;
  • Guidance on the Application of FSVP Regulation to Importers of Grain Raw Agricultural Commodities;
  • Considerations for Determining Whether a Measure Provides the Same Level of Public Health Protection as the Corresponding Requirement in 21 CFR part 112 or the Preventive Controls Requirements in part 117 or 507 Draft Guidance;
  • FSVP Small Entity Compliance Guide (SECG); and,
  • Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Animal Food Draft Guidance.

We encourage a close review of each of the documents, as they address important issues affecting compliance with the major FSMA regulations. Note that comments can be submitted at any time on guidance documents. FDA has established dates by when comments are requested to be submitted on the draft guidance document

Click here to read the summary.

On January 4, 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced through Guidance that it does not intend to enforce particular provisions of the Preventive Controls for Human Food (PCHF), Preventive Controls for Animal Food (PCAF), Produce Safety, and Foreign Supplier Verification Programs (FSVP) regulations issued under the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). This post provides an overview of the situations in which FDA will exercise enforcement discretion, specifically:

  • Written assurance provisions in all four rules related to the downstream control of identified hazards or microorganisms that are a potential risk to public health;
  • FSVP requirements for importers of food contact substances (FCS);
  • PCAF requirements for certain manufacturing/processing activities performed on human food by-products for use as animal food; and
  • Certain facilities that are similar to farms, but that do not meet the “farm” definition.

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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued Draft Guidance on its interpretation of what constitutes a refusal of inspection by a foreign food establishment or foreign government. Though the target audience is foreign food establishments and foreign governments, the Draft Guidance provides insight into FDA’s perspective on the legal obligations that apply to all food facility inspections. In particular, FDA describes refusal to permit photography during an inspection as a refusal of inspection. We provide an overview of the Draft Guidance, including the various actions FDA considers to constitute a refusal of inspection and the repercussions when foreign food establishments or foreign governments refuse inspection. FDA requests that comments on the Draft Guidance be submitted by February 26, 2018.

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FDA recently shared information regarding a number of ongoing FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) implementation issues. This post summarizes updates and developments regarding the following matters:

1. The written assurance requirements under several FSMA regulations;
2. Industry concerns regarding the Intentional Adulteration regulation;
3. Regulation of human food by-products for use as animal food when these materials are further processed to facilitate storage and distribution;
4. Various initiatives regarding implementation of the Produce Safety rule; and
5. Compliance with the Sanitary Food Transportation rule.

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