June 25, 2024

Health Groups Ask Congress for More Money for FSMA

Several health advocacy groups have written a letter, asking Congress to add $50 million to the FDA’s fiscal year 2015 budget to full fund implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011 (FSMA). FDA has estimated that it needs an additional $300 million over the next few years to fully implement the law, which was the first reform of the nation’s food safety regulations in years. FDA is finalizing the rules of the law and is building the systems needed to implement it. FSMA changed FDA’s approach to food safety, focusing the agency’s efforts on preventing food safety problems before they occur rather than reacting to illnesses and outbreaks after they occur. The comprehensive food import oversight system section of FSMA is a first, making importer responsible for the safety … [Read more...]

Senators Ask President for Increased NARMS Funding

Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) are asking the President to increase funding for the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) in a letter sent to the White House on Monday, September 22, 2014. The senators are asking for $15 million in the fiscal year 2016 budget. The senators say that "combatting the mounting threat of antibiotic resistance in foodborne pathogens is one of our top priorities, and NARMS is key in this effort." Last week the White House released a report on combating antibiotic resistance, along with a National Strategy on Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria and a Presidential Executive Order which emphasizes the importance of this work. The CDC estimates that 2,000,000 people develop … [Read more...]

Members of Congress Want to See Full Funding for FSMA

Members of the U.S. House Roda DeLauro (D-CT) and Sam Farr (D-CA) sent a letter last week to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to ask them to fully fund the Food Safety and Modernization Act of 2011 (FSMA) rather than relying on user fees. In the fiscal year 2015 budget, the FDA requested $1.48 million for food safety, which includes $255 million in proposed user fees. Their letter states that "FDA must have the resources to retrain the existing inspection workforce, hire new staff, and contract with states to leverage their inspection forces. Continuing outbreaks of foodborne illness undermine consumer confidence and greatly concern those of us who supported FSMA and want it to be implemented … [Read more...]

House Republicans Let Schools Opt Out of Nutrition Standards

On Thursday, May 29, 2014, the House Appropriations Committee voted to pass a USDA funding bill that contains a provision letting the nation's schools opt out of rules on nutrition standards. The program faces opposition from the PTA, USDA officials, and advocacy groups such as Center for Science in the Public Interest. CSPI nutrition policy director Margo G. Wooten said in a statement, "Congress should be a celebrating the excellent progress that school systems are making toward implementing the USDA's nutrition standards. But instead, House Republicsns are playing politics with what's on school lunch trays and children's health. By allowing school districts to opt out of school nutrition standards, House Republicans are opening up the floodgates to let all the old junk food back into … [Read more...]

Are We in the “Post Antibiotic” Era?

A report on PBS on the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is frightening. An interview with Arjun Srinivasan, the CDC's expert on antimicrobial resistant said, "We're here. We're in the post-antibiotic era. There are patients for whom we have no therapy, and we are literally in a position of having a patient in a bed who has an infection, something that five years ago even we could have treated, but now we can't." Most chillingly, he says, "There are Gram-negative bacteria that have developed resistance to everything, for which we have no viable antibiotics left to treat them." This fight is personal to me because one of my cousins is currently hospitalized with an antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection. In addition, the ongoing Foster Farms chicken Salmonella outbreak involves … [Read more...]

Democrats Call for Hearing on Antibiotic Resistance

Democrats in the United States House of Representatives sent a letter to Republicans to hold a hearing on the public health risks of antibiotic resistant bacteria. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released their Vital Signs report this week showing that carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) bacteria have become resistant to "all or nearly all the antibiotics we have today." Those superbugs kill half of all patients who are infected. The bacteria were rare in 2000, affecting only 1% of patients. Now they sicken 4.2% of hospital patients. The bacteria can spread their antibiotic resistance to other bacteria as well. Food Poisoning Bulletin has been reporting on antibiotic resistant bacteria in food for the past year. In October, a new study found that … [Read more...]

Federal GMO Labeling Bill to be Introduced in Congress

Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO) is planning on introducing a federal bill to mandate labeling of foods containing genetically modified ingredients. The bill sets disclosure and labeling requirements for any foods that have been genetically engineered or modified. The bill will be co-sponsored by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), who has been active on this issue for years. While this sounds like good news for those who support labeling of GMO, GE, and GM foods, an article on Alternet suggested that representatives of Walmart, General Mills, Cocoa-Cola, and others who opposed Proposition 37 in California last November may want this bill to become law so stricter bills cannot be passed in state legislatures. Federal laws generally pre-empt state laws. GMO labeling laws are under consideration … [Read more...]

Secretary Vilsack Responds to Cattlemen About Sequester Effects

Last week Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack stated in a press conference that sequestration could lead to temporary layoffs of federal meat inspectors. That action would stop meat and poultry processing in this country for that time period. The meat industry responded to this statement by arguing that the USDA is "legally obligated" to provide inspectors at meat plants. National Cattlemen's Beef Association president Scott George said in a statement, "while we are certain the USDA contains other 'non-essential' employees, the Secretary has chosen to announce the consequences of sequestration in terms of a furlough of FSIS inspectors, essentially threatening to close down all production, processing and interstate distribution of meat. This action has already cost cattle producers … [Read more...]

Vilsack and OMB Say Sequestration Threatens Food Safety

On February 8, 2013, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said that sequestration will affect the nation's food safety. If Congress fails to act, on March 1, 2013 budget cuts go into effect across the board in the United States. "Across-the-board cuts for virtually every agency, every line item of every agency," will occur, he stated. "The effects will be extraordinary." He continued, "it is likely, if sequester is triggered, that in our food safety area we will have to furlough workers for a period of a couple of weeks. Now you say, well, you know, everybody gets a couple weeks' vacation. The problem is, as soon as you take an inspector off the floor, that plant shuts down, so it's not just the inspectors, it's the hundreds of thousands of people who are in the processing business. … [Read more...]

Government Action on Arsenical Pesticides Delayed

Consumers Union, an arm of Consumer Reports, has called on the EPA to ban arsenic-containing pesticides. A National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council (NAS/NRC) meeting being held today "will be the start of a process that could delay government action for at least three years on the risks of arsenic," according to the press release. Exposure to inorganic arsenic is linked to cancer. The National Toxicology Program has classified inorganic arsenic compounds as "known to be a human carcinogen." The government is reviewing the cancer and non-cancer risks from inorganic arsenic after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was directed by Congress to stop  work on its prior cancer risk assessment after several years of research. Dr. Michael Hansen, Senior Scientist at … [Read more...]

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