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Food & Ag Policy Briefing: FDA settles ‘high risk’ food lawsuit, CAP set for a reset?

Also last week, FDA publishes results of PFAS testing and EU and U.S. reach resolution on beef dispute

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has reached a settlement with the Center for Food Safety that will see the former designate ‘high risk’ foods and propose special record keeping requirements for facilities that handle them by September 8, next year.

FDA has also agreed to publish the final rule and post the list of high-risk foods on its website by November 7, 2022. CFS and the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) sued FDA in October last year to “force the hand” of the agency, which it claims was “sitting on [the mandate] for years.”

The CFS settlement goes further than the traceability requirements under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which never included a date to finalize the reporting requirements for high-risk foods, Ryan Talbott, CFS staff attorney, told IEG Policy.

Under FSMA, FDA was to designate high-risk foods by January 2012 and propose recordkeeping requirements for facilities that handle those foods by January 2013, all designed to speed traceability in the likelihood of an outbreak.

Following the settlement, the agency says it’s already drafting a proposed rule and planning public meetings.

“We anticipate sending the proposed rule to the Office of the Federal Register within 15 months, or by September 8, 2020, and doing the same for a final rule within 41 months (by November 7, 2022), which allows time for public comment and public meetings. After the FDA publishes the proposed rule, the agency will hold three public meetings to provide stakeholders the opportunity to provide feedback before finalizing,” FDA told IEG Policy.

PFAS testing

Also last week, FDA published the results of its testing of food for the presence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

As part of its PFAS testing, FDA tested a dairy farm near a US Air Force Base in New Mexico where firefighting foams containing PFAS had been used and found that area water samples tested 35 times greater than the current EPA health advisory of 70 parts per trillion.

FDA researchers analyzed 13 samples from the dairy farm, including water, animal feed and five milk samples and found all 13 samples had detectable levels of PFAS. The samples were "determined to be a human health concern and all milk from the farm was discarded."

The agency also tested 20 produce samples from farms in North Carolina located near a PFAS manufacturing plant. The 20 samples included 16 samples of leafy greens, such as kale, collard greens and lettuce. In 15 of those samples, FDA found detectable levels of PFAS, but the agency determined the "samples were determined not likely to be a human health concern."

FDA Acting Commissioner Ned Sharpless and FDA Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response Frank Yiannas were quick to stress that the research on these substances in food is still in its infancy, but a new internal workgroup has been established to determine baseline levels for PFAS in food as well as study the risks of exposure and ways to reduce it.

CAP reboot?

In Europe, the head of the EU’s umbrella farming organization Copa-Cogeca has raised his concerns that reform of the post-2020 Common Agricultural Policy could be set back to square one by new MEPs following last month’s Parliamentary elections.

Pekka Pesonen said he is concerned that the increased number of Green MEPs will push to create their own “landmark policy”, but he urged them to instead “take advantage of the work conducted by their predecessors and base their proposals on the conclusion of the AGRI Committee vote in April.”

Earlier this month, EU agriculture ministers delayed the adoption of a common position on the CAP at the informal Council meeting in Bucharest. The Romanian Presidency had been pushing for a resolution by the end of June, but national delegations continue to disagree on some key elements of the reform package.

EU-US beef resolution

Finally, while trade tensions between the two markets remain high, the United States and European Union were able to conclude an agreement on the entry of U.S.-produced hormone-free beef into the EU market late last week.

The deal will see a country-specific allocation of 35,000 tonnes, out of a total quota of 45,000 tonnes, given to the U.S. and phased in over the next seven years. The remaining amount will be left open to other eligible exporters, which includes Australia, New Zealand, Argentina and Uruguay.

Not to be confused with the EU’s ‘Hilton’ quota for beef, the hormone-free quota is often referred to in South America as the ‘481’ quota and in Australia as the ‘grainfed’ quota.

It was originally set up to resolve a hormone use dispute between the EU and US and Washington has long been unhappy with how much of the quota is taken up by rival suppliers.

Faced with the threat of retaliatory sanctions, the European Commission first signalled its willingness to renegotiate quota arrangements in early 2018.

The fact that many of the rival suppliers are currently involved in trade talks with the EU could mean that more duty-free quotas could be introduced in future.

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