The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a guidance document that identifies eight ingredients that the agency has determined meet the regulatory definition of “dietary fiber.” Specifically, FDA has recognized the following ingredients as meeting the dietary fiber definition: (1) mixed plant cell wall fibers; (2) arabinoxylan; (3) alginate; (4) inulin and inulin-type fructans; (5) high amylose starch (resistant starch 2); (6) galactooligosaccharide; (7) polydextrose; and (8) resistant maltodextrin/dextrin. In this guidance document, FDA also announced that it intends to extend enforcement discretion regarding the declaration of these eight isolated or synthetic nondigestible carbohydrates (NDCs) as a dietary fiber on Nutrition Facts and Supplement Facts labels pending completion of a formal rulemaking to revise the dietary fiber regulation to reflect these ingredients. In addition to the guidance document, FDA has also published a review of the scientific evidence on the physiological effects of these NDCs, and has issued responses to several citizen petitions requesting that certain NDCs be added to the “dietary fiber” definition.

This post provides a brief overview of FDA’s dietary fiber definition, and summarizes the key aspects of the guidance related to FDA’s determination that these eight ingredients meet the dietary fiber definition.

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The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) recently released the Spring 2018 Unified Agenda of Regulatory Actions for federal agencies, which outlines the rulemaking actions currently under development in each federal agency. This post 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), 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.

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Food product labels are under intense scrutiny from consumers, regulators, class action lawyers, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Demands for more information, as well as changes to or prohibitions on labels’ use of certain terminology, are on the rise. But do label-reform advocates fully appreciate the legal and regulatory complexities and burdens food-labeling revisions impose on the industry, especially when those changes involve state-specific rules? Martin Hahn and Samantha Dietle discuss in the Washington Legal Foundation’s Legal Backgrounder.

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As the June 18, 2018 compliance date for the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) final determination that partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) are no longer generally recognized as safe (GRAS) approaches, the food industry has undertaken efforts to obtain clarification and flexibility from FDA on several issues related to the compliance date, including (1) clarifying the regulatory status of PHO-containing products on the market after the compliance date, (2) requesting an extension of the compliance date to accommodate the time needed for the agency to respond to the pending food additive petition on PHOs, and (3) seeking enforcement discretion to use existing label inventory that declares PHOs as an ingredient after the ingredient has been removed from product formulations.

This post summarizes recent developments and statements from the agency on these issues.

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Food companies and retailers doing business in California should take note of the recent proposed statement of decision in the case challenging the coffee industry’s failure to warn of the presence of acrylamide in coffee under Proposition 65. On March 28, 2018, the Superior Court of California at Los Angeles County issued a proposed statement of decision ruling the coffee industry failed to meet their burden of proof on their alternative significant risk level (ASRL) affirmative defense. To the extent the ruling is not overturned on appeal, it would set the precedent for applying the ASRL for other listed substances that form during the cooking of food.

Acrylamide is not intentionally added to coffee. Instead, when coffee beans are roasted, a chemical reaction (the Maillard reaction) occurs causing the asparagine and sugars in coffee beans to form the chemical. FDA reports “acrylamide is found mainly in foods made from plants, such as potato products, grain products, or coffee” and that generally it is “more likely to accumulate when cooking is done for longer periods or at higher temperatures.” In the past few years, bounty hunters have filed multiple actions against companies marketing foods in California that contain acrylamide and do not bear the Proposition 65 warning. In light of the recent ruling, it would be prudent for companies that manufacture or market food products that contain acrylamide to reexamine their obligations under Proposition 65.

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On March 1, 2018, Food and Drug Administration (FDA or the agency) Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb, M.D., announced new efforts to advance implementation of the new consumer Nutrition Facts label for foods, and with it a plethora of guidance documents on dietary fiber, Reference Amounts Customarily Consumed (RACCs) for product categories, declaration of added sugars on honey and similar products, and proper labeling of honey and honey products. We briefly discuss each of the following guidance documents further below:

  • Final Guidance for Industry: Reference Amounts Customarily Consumed: List of Products for Each Product Category
  • Serving Sizes of Foods That Can Reasonably Be Consumed At One Eating Occasion; Dual-Column Labeling; Updating, Modifying, and Establishing Certain Reference Amounts Customarily Consumed; Serving Size for Breath Mints; and Technical Amendments; Small Entity Compliance Guide
  • Final Guidance for Industry: Scientific Evaluation of the Evidence on the Beneficial Physiological Effects of Isolated or Synthetic Non-digestible Carbohydrates Submitted as a Citizen Petition (21 CFR 10.30)
  • Draft Guidance for Industry: Declaration of Added Sugars on Honey, Maple Syrup, and Certain Cranberry Products
  • Final Guidance for Industry: Proper Labeling of Honey and Honey Products

The deadline for submitting comments on the Draft Guidance concerning the declaration of added sugars for honey, maple syrup, and certain cranberry products is May 1, 2018. Comments should be submitted to Docket No. FDA-2018-D-0075. The other documents are Final Guidance, on which comments can be submitted at any time.

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On February 9, 2018, the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) submitted a petition requesting the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to establish labeling requirements that would exclude synthetic products made from alternative proteins and lab-grown meat from animal cells from being marketed as “beef” and/or “meat.” The petition requests that new regulations be adopted limiting the term “beef” to describe the tissue or flesh from animals born raised, harvested, and processed in the “traditional” way, and limiting the term “meat” to the tissue or flesh of animals that have been harvested in the “traditional” manner.

Read the update.

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 Proposition 65 Interim BPA warning regulation that allows companies to rely on a generic warning posted in California retail establishments will sunset on December 30, 2017. Food and beverage companies that have BPA containing packages in California and that have been relying on the interim BPA warning regulation for compliance should reassess their Proposition 65 warning obligations prior to December 31, 2017.

By way of brief background, effective May 11, 2016, OEHHA started requiring warnings for consumer products containing BPA under the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 (also known as Proposition 65 or Prop 65). Due to the high percentage of the canned and bottled food and beverages that were packaged with BPA-containing materials in California at that time, OEHHA adopted an emergency regulation that allowed the temporary use of a standard point-of-sale warning message (e.g., posting of warnings at checkout stands in retail stores) for BPA. In July 2016, OEHHA proposed an interim rule that essentially extended the temporary regulation through December 30, 2017. The interim regulation also required food companies that exercised this option to provide OEHHA with a list of all food products in which BPA was intentionally used in the manufacture of the can lining or jar or bottle seals.

As of today, there are a total of over 23,000 entries of canned or bottled food products listed in the publicly-accessible OEHHA database for products packaged with BPA-containing materials. The sheer number of listed products in the database suggests that many food and beverage companies have been relying on the interim BPA warning regulation for compliance. On December 31, 2017, those food and beverage companies with products listed in the OEHHA database that have not phased out the use of BPA in their packaging should assess their options for compliance with Proposition 65. Companies should consult with legal counsel when assessing whether they will have an obligation to provide a Prop 65 warning and if so, the type of warning that should be required.

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After three years of negotiations, the European Union is nearing the end of a long process to simplify and harmonize the rules for organic food production and the labeling of organic products. Council Regulation (EC) 834/3007 currently defines the minimum standards for organic products that are produced, manufactured, imported into, sold or traded within the EU, as well as the national inspection and certification systems that ensure that these requirements are met.

However, the past decade has seen a 125% growth in the value of the organic food market, with the amount of land used for organic farming growing at around 400,000 hectares per year. The European Commission has now recognized that the current rules need to be updated to support the long term development of organic production in the EU.   One of the key aims of the new regulations will be to ensure that the EU organic logo offers consumers the same guarantee of quality across Europe, including in respect of products imported from outside the EU.

The new rules will:

  • Create an EU-wide set of rules for all organic producers and products. Any necessary exceptions will be limited in time, regularly assessed and applied to all producers to ensure fair treatment.
    Apply equally to non-EU farmers who export their goods to the EU, phasing out the 60+ different “equivalence” standards currently applying to imported organic foods and levelling the playing field between EU and non-EU producers.
  • Enable farmers to apply for group certification for their products, thereby reducing costs and making it easier to join the organic scheme.
  • Apply to new products like salt, cork and essential oils and enable further products to be added in response to consumer demand.
  • Allow national authorities the discretion to reduce controls and inspections on farms from every year to every two years for producers with no record of non-compliance after three consecutive controls.
  • Reinforce the rules on precautionary measures to avoid accidental contamination by pesticides, giving consumers confidence that no pesticides have been used in the production of organic foods.

Following the European Parliament’s first reading, the proposed regulations will come into force on 1 January 2021, repealing Council Regulation (EC) 834/3007.

Please see here for more information on the new proposals.