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NAMA News September 28, 2012

Food Safety Overhaul in Store for Canada

On the heels of the U.S. Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA) of 2011, the Government of Canada is working to update its half-century old food safety system with the introduction of the Safe Food for Canadians Act (SFCA). The Canadian government has said it hopes to align its food safety laws more closely with its trading partners, such as the U.S.

NAMA supports such harmonization of the Canadian and U.S. food safety laws and regulations whenever possible. NAMA further supports efforts of the Canadian National Millers Association (CNMA) to propose an amendment to this bill to harmonize Canadian policies with Section 402 of the U.S. Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act (FDCA) to provide Canadian regulators the flexibility to differentiate between contaminants that are naturally occurring and thus unavoidable, and those that are not and are present at levels that are so small as to present no risk to the health of consumers.

Section 402 of the FDCA allows the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to work with U.S. farmers and the entire cereal grains supply chain on meaningful guidance, best practices and optimal management of contaminants. Canadian regulators and industry should also be allowed to target precious food safety resources toward higher risk concerns. This would also align the food safety statutes in Canada and the US, and therefore facilitate trade between the two largest trading partners in the world.

Schools Working to Meet New Meal Standards

Last January, USDA published the first major guideline changes to what can be served for school meals in 15 years. The new guidelines are to be implemented over five years. The beginning of the school year this month brought the Washington issued guidelines into direct contact with their consumers (students) for the first time with mixed results.

The new rules establish calorie and sodium limits for meals, require schools to serve larger portions of fruits and vegetables and mandate 1 percent or non-fat milk. Grains will continue to play an important role in the schools in the new guidelines with an emphasis on increasing whole grains. For lunch, schools may offer half of whole grain-rich, and half refined enriched for the next two school years. USDA has defined whole grain-rich as a product having 50% whole grains, which would be the first ingredient listed.

The new requirements limit calories for all students by age groups which is drawing criticism from some students and parents who claim the lunches are not filling enough, particularly for those participating in sports activities. The complaints have been so widespread, that two Congressmen have introduced the “No Kids Hungry Act,” that would repeal the calorie restrictions.

Technical Committee Meeting a Huge Success

Thirty people gathered at the Institute for Food Safety and Health (IFSH) in Chicago September 20 for the annual fall meeting of the Technical Committee. Seven NAMA member companies not currently represented on the Technical Committee sent representatives to the meeting as guests.

Food safety was the special theme of the meeting. Former FDA food safety director and now IFSH head Bob Brackett hosted the group. A tour of the IFSH facility was held prior to the meeting and participants saw first-hand the institute’s food safety research capabilities.

Bill Weissinger, deputy director of FDA’s Chicago field office gave a presentation on millers’ rights and obligations during an FDA inspection. He then fielded questions during a lively and informative exchange with the millers.

Other agenda topics covered included microbiological contamination, vitamin D enrichment, mycotoxins, sustainability and biotechnology. The committee next meets March 23 on the front end of the NAMA Division Meetings at the Hammock Beach Resort, Palm Coast, FL.

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