“We’ve been laser-focused on food safety and implementation” of the Food Safety Modernization Act, said Stephen Ostroff, M.D., acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, during his remarks to the standing-room-only audience on Tuesday at Dairy Forum. He noted that FSMA’s seven foundational rules were finalized last year, with much welcome input from IDFA and other industry stakeholders. He said the agency will continue working with industry “on our common goals” as FDA develops additional implementation guidelines and rules, as well as other initiatives affecting dairy.
He expects the agency will move forward with additional rulemaking on laboratory accreditation, traceability, the Reportable Food Registry and food recalls, but these will take time “so don’t look for them anytime soon.”
He briefly touched on this week’s executive order on regulations, saying any rollback would be “quite unfortunate” and adding, “There’s not a huge lobby for unsafe food.”
Regarding Grade A products, Ostroff said FDA will work with the National Conference of Interstate Milk Shipments at the group’s May 2017 conference to align the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance requirements with those of FSMA’s preventive controls rule for human foods.
The agency doesn’t plan any new sampling assignments for dairy this year, but it’s currently conducting assignments on ice cream, Mexican cheese and ready-to-eat foods.
He also touched on several labeling issues of interest to the dairy industry. Regarding IDFA’s request to harmonize the compliance dates for changes to the Nutrition Facts label with those of the GMO disclosure standard to come from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Ostroff assured the audience that “we’ve heard you and we’re having discussions with USDA on that.”
When asked about a definition for the term “natural,” he acknowledged that it’s a complicated issue because the uses of natural are “all over the map” and consensus remains elusive.
Following a question from the audience about alternative milks, Ostroff said the agency is currently evaluating them, so he wouldn’t be able to comment.