FDA seeks further reduction in trans fats

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is taking steps to further reduce the amount of trans fats in processed foods. The FDA has made a preliminary determination that partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) are not “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) for use in food.

“Consumption of artificial trans fat, a man-made, not naturally occurring substance, increases the risk of coronary heart disease,” FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg told reporters this morning.  She says food manufacturers have made great strides in reformulating their products to reduce or eliminate trans fats over the years – but more needs to be done, “It’s particularly important for us to hear from industry during the next 60 days. We need to know how much time would be needed for industry to remove partially hydrogenated oil from processed food products should this preliminary determination be finalized.”

After a 60 day public comment period which starts this Friday, November 8th, Hamburg says the FDA will make a final decision on whether to phase out the use of those man-made oils.  Since 2006, the FDA has required food companies to declare the amount of trans fat in foods on product nutrition labels.

Audio: Conference call with FDA officials (28:00 mp3)

Could shutdown impact food safety investigations?

When there are fewer federal food safety workers, what does that mean to consumers?  There’s been a large reduction in federal workers who track pathogens and identify them in food-related illness outbreaks due to the partial government shutdown, which a food safety expert says has big implications for consumers. Randy Worobo, a professor of food microbiology at Cornell University, says the tracking system in the event of an outbreak would be compromised.

[The FDA primarily oversees inspection of mostly packaged foods and produce. The USDA oversees meat and dairy food inspection and remains fully staffed for that.]

HEALTHY LIVING PROGRAM – Gov. shutdown and food safety inspection (1:30 mp3)

CDC report on antibiotics mentions food animal use

A new report on antibiotic resistance by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) includes a cautionary section about antibiotic use in food producing animals.  It says “resistant bacteria can be transmitted from food-producing animals to humans through the food supply.”

However, the report shows that “most deaths related to antibiotic resistance happen in healthcare settings such as hospitals and nursing homes.”

It says “resistant bacteria can be transmitted from food-producing animals to humans through the food supply.” Further, the report says antibiotics should only be used under veterinary oversight in food producing animals and “only to manage and treat infectious diseases, not to promote growth.”

A food animal science expert, Dr. Scott Hurd with Iowa State University, has told Brownfield that that transmission to humans can only occur in “very, very rare cases.”

The CDC report says antibiotics must be used judiciously in humans and animals.

The government report says at least 23-thousand people die from antibiotic resistant infections in the U.S. each year that affect more than two-million people.


Chobani recalls swelling yogurt

The nation’s top selling yogurt company is recalling certain yogurt products due to swelling and “hissing” of the product cups and some reported illnesses from eating the product.

Officials at the Chobani plant in Twin Falls, Idaho, say a type of mold typically found in dairy production may be to blame. Before the recall, the company started removing some of the product from store shelves.

Complaints from customers started showing up on Chobani’s Facebook page. Company officials wrote on the page that the type of mold they suspect is “unlikely to have ill health effects” but they’ve decided to have a voluntary recall because of those claims of illness.

The recall includes all flavors Chobani Greek yogurt in various sizes with the product code 16-012 and “best-buy” dates of September 11, 2013 to October 7, 2013.

FDA product recall page,

A rule on imported food finalized by FDA

A proposed food safety rule has been made final by the FDA on imported foods. The Food and Drug Administration says the rule gives it “important new tools to better insure that imported foods are produced under the same safety standards as those in the United States.” It was required by the 2011 Food Safety and Modernization Act, or, the ‘food safety law.’

In short, the rule adds another element to the Bioterrorism Preparedness Act of 2022 by requiring anyone submitting prior notice of imported food to report the name of ANY country that has refused that product’s entry. And, that includes food for animals.

It is already established in that law that the U.S. can refuse food imports if “adequate prior notice” has not been provided to the FDA.

The rule goes into effect this Friday, May 31st, 2013.

USDA investigates GE wheat found in Oregon

The USDA says unapproved GE wheat has been found in an Oregon field and they’ve launched an investigation.

US Wheat Associates and the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) say they were notified today that the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) confirmed a genetically-modified, glyphosate-resistant wheat variety that Monsanto field-tested more than eight years ago present “in volunteer wheat on one Oregon farm.”

Monsanto did research testing on Roundup Ready spring wheat from 1998 through 2005, but withdrew its application for deregulation of that trait.

The USDA has NOT authorized the sale of RoundUp Ready glyphosate resistant wheat – or any other genetically modified wheat – anywhere.

Although not commercialized, the wheat groups say the FDA found that the RoundUp Ready trait in wheat posed no health risks in food or animal feed.

U.S. Wheat Associates and NAWG say they’re monitoring the investigation and appreciate their customers standing by them.

Challenges with ‘increased veterinary oversight’ of antimicrobials

The FDA is proceeding with plans to place new restrictions on certain antibiotics that are used for growth promotion in livestock. 

The FDA initiative would also require more veterinary oversight of antimicrobial use. However, there some issues associated with that requirement.  One is the shortage of food animal veterinarians in some parts of the country.  The other is the extra workload and paperwork that may come with the increased oversight responsibilities.

FDA has been holding a series of meetings around the U.S. to allow public feedback on the challenges veterinarians and producers will face under the proposed rules.  At a meeting in Fort Collins, Colorado in early May, we visited with some of the meeting participants about the FDA’s strategy.

Christine Hoang is the assistant director of the scientific activities division of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

AUDIO: Christine Hoang (4:14 MP3)

Dr. David Dargatz works in the Fort Collins office of USDA’s Animal  and Plant Health Inspection Service.  He talks about the veterinary shortage that is a problem is some areas of the U.S.

AUDIO: David Dargatz (4:49 MP3)

Meghann Pierdon is swine veterinarian from Lancaster County in central Pennsylvania. 

AUDIO: Meghann Pierdon (1:58 MP3)

Brad Thorton is a pork producer from Kuna, Idaho.

AUDIO: Brad Thornton (1:09 MP3)

Another ‘antibiotics’ bill introduced

Another piece of legislation aimed at curbing the use of antibiotics in livestock has been introduced in Congress. 

The Antimicrobial Data Collection Act in the Senate calls for increased data collection by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and “enhanced transparency and public awareness of antimicrobial use in agriculture.” Similar legislation was introduced earlier in the House.

Meanwhile, the FDA is proceeding with plans to place new restrictions on certain antibiotics that are used for growth promotion in livestock.  The FDA initiative would also require more veterinary oversight of antimicrobial use.  National Pork Producers Association chief veterinarian Dr. Liz Wagstrom says that, once those new rules are in place, it should eliminate the need for Congressional action.

“I believe that the FDA actions that are being taken now are going to accomplish about 90 percent of what they want to do legislatively,” Wagstrom says. “These steps are going to make real changes in our uses of antibiotics and will answer many of the concerns that the people who have been involved in those Congressional actions may have.”

Wagstrom made those comments Wednesday in an interview with Brownfield at an FDA meeting on antimicrobial use that took place in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Link to previous story and interview with Liz Wagstrom

Opinions on antibiotics vary widely

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is moving ahead with new restrictions on the use of antibiotics in animal agriculture.  But there is still a big difference of opinion over whether those new rules are necessary—or whether they go far enough.

Dr. Liz Wagstrom, chief veterinarian for the National Pork Producers Council, says they’re still not convinced that the use of antibiotics in livestock is the big issue.

“On a scientific basis, we’re not sure that growth promotion uses of antibiotics need to end,” Wagstrom says, “because we don’t feel that there is a proven negative public health impact to those uses.”

AUDIO: Liz Wagstrom (5:44 MP3)

But Susan Vaugh Grooters with the Center for Science in the Public Interest argues FDA’s voluntary restrictions on antibiotic use are not enough.

“Addressing a public health crisis like antibiotic resistance, with a voluntary approach, is inherently flawed,” Vaughn Grooters says. “We need the FDA to use their regulatory authority to protect the public health with a more enforcement mindset than they are now.”

AUDIO: Susan Vaughn Grooters (2:52 MP3)

Wagstrom and Vaughn Grooters were participants in a recent FDA-sponsored meeting in Fort Collins, Colorado.  The purpose of the meeting was to gather public input on the FDA’s proposed restrictions on antibiotic use combined with increased veterinary oversight of antimicrobial use.

FDA preparing new restrictions on antimicrobial use in livestock

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is holding a series of five meetings across the U.S. to discuss proposed restrictions on antimicrobial use in food-producing animals.

The purpose of the meetings is to allow public feedback on the challenges veterinarians and producers will face under the proposed rules, which would place new restrictions of the use of antimicrobials for “growth promotion” purposes and require more veterinary oversight of antimicrobial use.

At the FDA public meeting held this week in Fort Collins, Colorado, Brownfield discussed the agency’s strategy with Bill Flynn, deputy director for science policy in the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine.

AUDIO: Bill Flynn (5:25 MP3)