The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) held its first Regulatory RoundUP this week, featuring speakers representing several federal agencies. Topics included labeling, food safety, food defense, energy savings and school nutrition programs.
FDA’s Taylor praises PMO, safety of milk supply
Michael Taylor, deputy commissioner for the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA) Foods and Veterinary Medicine division, discussed the rulemaking and implementation activities affecting all Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) rules.
Taylor underscored FDA’s commitment to the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (PMO), calling it the strong, unchanging, historic way that industry and government have worked together to assure the safety of milk for many years. He called pasteurization the ultimate preventive control, and noted the strength of the National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments ( NCIMS) framework, which offers a federal-state cooperative program and a good model for collaborating with industry. Taylor said FDA is now assessing how to implement FSMA in a way that preserves and builds on the success of the PMO.
FDA is undergoing a culture change, Taylor said, moving from a traditional approach focused on enforcement against violations to an approach that fosters compliance with standards and focuses on outcomes. The agency is considering how best to provide guidance, technical assistance and training support while conducting inspections that are flexible and more targeted based on risk.
In closing, Taylor mentioned the significant gap in funding and resources that will be necessary to implement FSMA. He said a new system based on compliance outcomes will depend on partnerships that uncover ways to leverage public and private resources to make it work.
Taylor also offered answers to several questions from the participants:
• The results of the milk sampling survey, which checked for antibiotic residues in milk, are still “in process,” although Taylor said the outcome is very reassuring about the safety of the milk supply. The question the agency is grappling with now is “what are the indications for how we continue to do our work to ensure that.” Although he didn’t mention a date, Taylor said FDA plans to release the results, with no surprises, as soon as it can.
• He acknowledged that the proposed changes to the Nutrition Facts panel will take time and money, so FDA is proposing a two-year implementation period. He encouraged processors to provide factual based comments with scenarios of what FDA should be doing.
• Regarding recent news reports that FDA is planning to release voluntary sodium reduction guidelines, Taylor said it is a high priority, but not a new initiative. The agency has been working on sodium guidelines since 2010, when the Institute of Medicine report recommended that FDA work with the food industry to set targets for voluntary reductions with a gradual approach. He didn’t mention a specific timeline, but said the agency is in the process of getting them finalized.
• When asked about growing calls to ease restrictions on the sale of raw milk, Taylor emphasized that FDA will continue to express its concerns about increased public health risks from raw milk consumption.
Nutrition Facts, serving size labels addressed
Jillonne Kevala, Ph.D., supervisory chemist, FDA, discussed proposed changes to Nutrition Facts information and serving sizes on food labels, especially as they pertain to dairy products. Among those proposals is a rule to require food packages containing two to four servings to feature dual column labeling for nutrition information: one column would be cover individual serving size; and the other would list information for the entire container.
Kevala said the proposed rules would exempt small packages with less than 40 square inches of labeling space, which are often used for cheeses. These small products are currently permitted to use the linear or tabular formats for nutrition facts panel and would not be subject to the new dual column requirements.
Kevala also confirmed that dairy products used solely as an ingredient, such as grated or shredded cheeses that are packaged to contain two to four servings, would be exempt from the dual column format.
Paula Trumbo, Ph.D., nutrition programs, FDA, provided an overview of changes to the mandatory declaration of nutrients and discussed the new provisions for added sugars. She also reviewed the proposed change that would no longer require vitamin A and vitamin C to be declared, saying these would be replaced by vitamin D and potassium. She clarified that when vitamin A is added to fortify a milk or dairy product, as is required for reduced-fat milks and dairy foods, this would trigger the need to include vitamin A on the label.
These modifications are part of FDA’s proposed changes to the nutrition labels for all packaged foods and beverages. If approved, the new labels would place a greater emphasis on total calories and added sugars, and change Daily Values for certain nutrients, including Vitamin D and potassium. FDA also proposes changes to serving size requirements for ice cream and other products in an effort to reflect more accurately the amount that people usually eat or drink.