Michael Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods in the Office of Foods and Veterinary Medicine, FDA
UPDATED FEBRUARY 11, 2016
Representatives from 17 food and beverage organizations, including IDFA, met last Friday with several high-ranking officials from the Food and Drug Administration to discuss the agency’s priorities and a variety of regulatory issues related to foods and beverages. Implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act, changes to the Nutrition Facts panel, sodium levels in food and Standards of Identity were among the list of pressing topics.
The organizations are members of the Food and Beverage Issues Alliance, which convenes the meeting annually and invites top regulatory officials to attend. Thirteen officials representing FDA and the agency’s Center for Food Safety and Nutrition (CFSAN) participated this year, including Michael Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods in the Office of Foods and Veterinary Medicine; Susan Mayne, director of CFSAN; and Rebecca Buckner, interim association director of FSMA Operations for CFSAN.
Cary Frye, IDFA vice president of regulatory and scientific affairs, and John Allan, IDFA vice president of regulatory affairs and international standards, represented IDFA. Other associations in the Alliance include the aAmerican Bakers Association, the American Beverage Association, the Corn Refiners Association, the Food Marketing Institute and the Grocery Manufacturers Association. A complete list of the meeting’s participants is available here.
Food Safety Modernization Act
The meeting featured an open discussion about opportunities for industry outreach and education to help with industry compliance with the comprehensive food safety rules. FDA is eager to have industry guidance and help and is working closely with the Food Safety Preventive Controls Alliance (FSPCA). FSPCA is a group of industry, academic and regulatory agency experts who have developed a training curriculum for individuals to be recognized as “preventive controls qualified individuals,” as defined in the preventive controls rule, to create facility food-safety plans.
This FDA-approved curriculum can be custom-tailored for specific foods, so IDFA is working to launch dairy food-focused training opportunities across the country by mid-year. Allan will lead this new initiative for IDFA.
FBIA members also noted, and FDA officials acknowledged, the importance of third-party certifications for a global food safety system.
Nutrition Facts Panel and Sodium
FDA is on track to release the updates to the Nutrition Facts panel this year, the officials reported. Although the final rule is still pending, they expressed an interest in working with industry to help with training for compliance with the new regulations. Frye has since had follow-up calls with FDA to discuss options for help in this area based on IDFA’s experience with dairy food label compliance.
Another issue that FDA considers a priority is the reduction of sodium in foods, but the officials said the agency’s focus is on a voluntary approach where companies could make incremental and subtle adjustments to sodium levels in their products. They specifically wanted to learn more about how sodium-reduction efforts could raise barriers to product innovation, which led into a discussion about existing hurdles with the current Standards of Identity.
“We explained in written comments to FDA that sodium is a necessary ingredient in certain products, but the current Standards of Identity prohibit salt substitutes,” said Frye. “So we agreed to look at where the standards have regulatory hurdles to innovation that stop industry from creating healthier products.”
Overall, the meeting provided a great opportunity to deepen working relationships and continue ongoing dialogue, Frye and Allan said. Frye suggested members may want to read a question-and-answer interview with Mayne where she shares her thoughts on her first year as CFSAN director, including accomplishments, challenges and things that have surprised her. She also talks about what she sees for the future at CFSAN.
For more information, contact Frye at firstname.lastname@example.org or Allan at email@example.com.