Stephen Ostroff, M.D., Deputy Commissioner of Food and Veterinary Medicine, FDA
“What a difference a year makes,” said Stephen Ostroff, M.D., the new deputy commissioner of food and veterinary medicine for the Food and Drug Administration, when he kicked off IDFA’s Regulatory RoundUP on Monday. Although he’s only in his third week as deputy commissioner, Ostroff said FDA had made significant progress and many changes on issues related to food safety during the past year. He promised to stay on the path forged by his predecessor, Mike Taylor, which valued input from stakeholders and partnerships with industry.
“We all want the same thing – a safe, nutritious and abundant food supply,” Ostroff said, adding that it’s important to work together, especially on the implementation phase of the “seven foundational rules” of the Food Safety Modernization Act. Maximum food safety protection will only occur if the rules work and compliance is high, he said.
Mentioning the rule on intentional adulteration, which was released last month, Ostroff commended the dairy industry for being a leader in issues related to food defense. He told the audience that “some of your work informed the rule.”
Technical Assistance Network
He encouraged attendees to submit questions on specific circumstances to FDA’s Technical Assistance Network, which is fielding questions related to FSMA rules, programs and implementation strategies. The agency has received 1,500 questions since the network went live last September.
He also stressed the importance of ongoing education for both dairy professionals and FDA inspectors to gain a better understanding of what’s required under the rules. He mentioned the curriculum developed by the Food Safety Preventive Controls Alliance as a good training ground for dairy employees and said FDA is “transforming” its workforce so that the inspectors who call on dairy companies will have more specialized expertise about the industry.
In addition, Ostroff discussed whole genome sequencing, which reveals the complete DNA make-up of an organism and allows investigators to differentiate between organisms with a precision that other technologies do not allow. Ostroff said FDA is in a transitional period of using the technology to identify pathogens isolated from food or environmental samples, but he expects “it will become the new norm” in food safety investigations.
Turning to nutrition issues, Ostroff said FDA is continuing a high level of activity with two new actions that will affect dairy: changes to the Nutrition Facts label and the agency’s draft voluntary guidance on sodium reduction. He acknowledged that the food industry was divided on sodium and said the agency would be open to continued dialogue with opportunities for comments.
Regulatory RoundUP offered seven additional sessions:
- Exporting U.S. Dairy Products: Technical and Regulatory Affairs
- The Food Police: Under Investigation
- Food Safety Modernization Act: Preparation and Compliance
- Collaborating with Your Regulators: Why Your Participation Matters
- Rewards, Regulation and Risk: Genetically Modified Organisms
- Partnering with USDA: MyPlate, MyWins
- FDA Dairy Food Safety Update
Some of these sessions will be covered in more detail in next week’s News Update Headlines.
For more information, contact Emily Lyons, IDFA director of regulatory affairs, at firstname.lastname@example.org.