Stephen Ostroff, M.D., deputy commissioner of food and veterinary medicine for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), made his third appearance as the keynote speaker for IDFA’s Regulatory RoundUP on Tuesday. He praised IDFA and the dairy company professionals in attendance for consistently partnering with FDA to protect public health and provide quality products. He also shared several updates on FDA’s progress on regulations that affect dairy companies.
“Thank you to everybody in this room. The relationship is a strong one and it's only getting stronger. We have great lines of communication with many of you in this room, particularly with IDFA,” Ostroff said.
Saying that he learns best from seeing, Ostroff commended IDFA for facilitating an April tour of Dean Foods Company’s Mayfield Dairy plant in Athens, Tenn. The visit provided a firsthand look at dairy processing as the regulators evaluate options for streamlining inspections for facilities that make Grade “A” and non-Grade “A” dairy products.
The two general categories of dairy foods are currently inspected separately by different FDA staff. Ostroff said a pilot program to consider a single federal audit for these products could start in late 2018 or early next year.
Ostroff also covered the agency’s attempts to monitor and reduce the incidences of foodborne illness, calling dairy’s industry trends “really reassuring.” He explained that an overwhelming majority of foodborne illness from dairy foods result from unpasteurized products, foods that IDFA has fought to keep illegal for sale to Americans. Ostroff noted the recent failure of an amendment to the House farm bill that would expand sales of raw milk, which IDFA worked to defeat. If legislation like this succeeded, he said, outbreaks such as the current and substantial E. Coli contamination of romaine lettuce would be more frequent.
Dairy, “We Hear You”
Ostroff also touched on several priority issues for IDFA members, assuring audience members that FDA has heard the dairy industry’s concerns and offering a them a timeline of what the industry can expect in the next year.
- FDA plans to issue a Federal Register Notice for comments on modernizing food standards of identity and will host a public meeting at the end of July. He added that a finalized yogurt standard would be updated to reflect modern U.S. products. In February IDFA submitted its top 24 regulatory reform issues, calling for the agency to adopt a new approach for modern and flexible dairy and food standards and to finalize new standards for yogurt.
- Regarding IDFA’s efforts to preserve the term “natural cheese” as a way to describe a specific category of cheese, Ostroff said, “We hear it and we’re working on it with you.”
- He said guidance “is tantalizingly close” regarding the intentional adulteration rule of the Food Safety Modernization Act. He said it should address the industry’s most pressing concerns.
- He told attendees to stay tuned for action on draft guidance on controlling against Listeria monocytogenes in ready-to-eat (RTE) foods.
Definition of Milk
Questions about dairy standards of identity were also raised Tuesday during a town hall meeting for FDA employees at the agency's facility in Silver Spring, Md. According to The Hagstrom Report, which covered the meeting, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., said the agency will not change the definition of milk or how it enforces that definition without “a deliberate process” that would likely include rulemaking. His remarks were in regards to questions about FDA’s enforcement of its definition for milk, a hot topic for dairy and plant-based products industries.
Read the exclusive excerpt of the Hagstrom Report for IDFA members here.
In addition to Ostroff’s keynote address, IDFA’s Regulatory RoundUP featured officials from FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition who discussed ways the industry can meet the agency’s expectations on supply chain requirements and implement measures to protect against intentionally introduced hazards. Michael Rogers, M.S., assistant commissioner for human and animal food operations at FDA, offered an inside look into the agency’s Office of Regulatory Affairs, a department devoted to enforcing regulations.
Event sessions also covered the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recently proposed National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard.
For more information, contact Cary Frye, IDFA senior vice president of regulatory affairs, at firstname.lastname@example.org.