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FDA to extend comment period on cloning

By Lorraine Heller , 02-Apr-2007

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has agreed to extend its comment period on a proposal to allow meat and milk products from cloned animals into the American food supply.

The regulatory agency said the public will have an extra thirty days to review and comment on its draft risk assessment of animal cloning, which was due to close on April 3, 2007. FDA said it decided to grant the extra month as a result of receiving a number of requests for an extension to the comment period, which certain groups felt was not long enough for a thorough consideration of the extensive information provided by the agency. The regulatory body told FoodNavigator-USA.com it felt it was "appropriate" to allow the extra time for comments to come in, adding that the new deadline of May 3 2007 should allow sufficient time for the public to review the risk assessment, which was released in January. Earlier this month, a number of trade and consumer groups sent a letter to the FDA calling for an extension to the comment period. "As FDA is not facing any statutory requirement to proceed within a specific timetable, we respectfully request that FDA extend the comment period - commensurate with the scope and complexity of the documents being commented on and the time it took FDA to prepare them - to allow adequate time to analyze the information necessary to prepare a thorough response to the request for comments and to participate fully in the rulemaking process," said the organizations in their letter to the Commissioner of the FDA. The letter, which said it is "in the public interest of the agency to take the time needed to 'get it right'", was sent by groups including the Center for Food Safety, the American Bakers Association, the American Frozen Food Institute, the Food Marketing Institute, GMA/FPA, the International Dairy Foods Association, the National Milk Producers Federation, the National Restaurant Association and the Snack Food Association. The concerns of these groups are part of a general backlash in response to FDA's controversial decision to approve cloning for food production, announced earlier this year. Because the introduction of cloned food into the US food supply is such groundbreaking action, the industry has added its voice to the usual and expected clamor from public health groups. A number of food firms have publicly made a stance against cloned products, including leading US dairy Dean Foods. Additionally, in a January 23 letter to its co-op members, California's largest dairy processor, California Dairies, stated that it "will not accept milk from cloned cows, effective immediately." Another California dairy, Clover Stornetta announced its ban on milk from clones early in January. According to a statement published by Dean Foods, its decision to reject cloned products is based on the desire and expectations of its customers. "We see no consumer benefit from this technology," said the firm. "If the FDA does approve the sale of milk from cloned cows, we will work with our dairy farmers to implement protocols to ensure that the milk they supply Dean Foods does not comes from cloned cows." To view the Federal Register Notice, click here .

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