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What's on the regulatory radar in 2013? From yogurt standards to energy drinks… PART TWO

By Elaine WATSON , 17-Dec-2012

Picture credit: Millions Against Monsanto, Flickr
Picture credit: Millions Against Monsanto, Flickr

In the second part of this FoodNavigator-USA special on what’s on the regulatory radar for the food sector’s key trade associations in 2013, we look at sugar, corn, dairy, and natural products & supplements.

(Click here for part one on bakery and confectionery.)

Sugar Association: We urge public to support HFCS labeling petition 

At the Sugar Association, the top priority is to "improve awareness about the true role of natural sugar in the diet, based on what science tells us and the reality that sugar consumption is far more limited than is commonly believed”.

The association will also be rallying support for a Citizens for Health petition calling for the FDA to make firms label the percentage of fructose in food and beverages containing high fructose corn syrup on food packaging.

And the biggest challenge facing members this year?

“The nationwide, multimillion-dollar misinformation campaign in which the processors of HFCS have been engaged, including the unsuccessful effort to petition the FDA to change the name of their product to ‘corn sugar’”, says the association.

“The campaign has contributed to widespread confusion of HFCS for natural sugar, leading to headlines lambasting ‘sugary beverages’ when, according to USDA data, more than 90% of all the caloric sweetener used in beverages in the US is HFCS, not sugar.”

Corn Refiners Association: It is essential that people understand that HFCS and processed sugar are nutritionally equivalent

Conversely, at the Corn Refiners Association (CRA), interim president J. Patrick Mohan is on a mission to challenge misconceptions about HFCS.

One ongoing challenge is the poor quality and misleading nature of some of the so-called science about HFCS and sweeteners in general. 

“Part of the problem is just bad or biased research.  The other problem is how quickly science can be misrepresented in the news media or on social media.”

But he adds: “We are very pleased that many major food companies now recognize that marketing their products as HFCS-free will not help them gain market share and, in some instances, has been counterproductive.”

Finally, as to rising levels of obesity, he says, “it is essential that people understand that high fructose corn syrup and processed sugar are nutritionally equivalent, so they can make well informed decisions about the foods and beverages they consume, so consumer education remains a top priority for CRA in 2013.”

Dairy: Seeking flexibility for amending standards of identity for foods

Moving onto the dairy industry, the International Dairy Foods Association’s top priorities in 2013 include “finishing the work on dairy policy and the farm bill; phasing out milk pricing regulations; providing flexibility for amending standards of identity for foods; reasonable nutrition and labeling regulations coming out of USDA and FDA; and reasonable regulations on FSMA”, says director of communications Marti Pupillo.

2012 achievements include “rescission of an Ohio state rule on dairy labeling through federal courts; prevailing at Codex on processed cheese standard; and legislative success on more market-oriented dairy policies”.

And the biggest frustrations?

The lack of unity among producers and processors on pricing policy, concerns about milk supply issues and declining fluid milk sales, he says.

Natural products and supplements: Sen DickDurbin: ‘We should expect him not to go away…’

Sen Dick Durbin is likely to remain on the warpath over energy drinks and dietary supplement regulations in 2013, predicts the NPA

Last but not least, we move to the natural products and dietary supplements industry.

Speaking at the Supply Side West trade show last month, Natural Products Association CEO John Shaw said it was “quite clear that we need more friends in the Senate when you look at what Senator Durbin and his friends are looking to do”.

Sen Dick Durbin (D-IL - pictured right), who has repeatedly raised concerns with the FDA about caffeine levels in energy drinks, supplements marketed as drinks, energy drink consumption among kids and teens, and the impact of combining stimulants with caffeine in these products, was likely to remain on the warpath in 2013, predicted Shaw.

“We should expect him not to go away…”

He also predicted that Durbin would re-introduce the Dietary Supplement Labeling Act in the 113th Congress. The Bill, which did not get anywhere in the 112th Congress, proposes to make firms register dietary supplement products to the FDA, introduce labels to disclose the known risks of ingredients, and display a mandatory warning if the product contains an ingredient that may cause potentially serious adverse events.   

GMO labeling: Having a patchwork of different state laws is not in the industry's best interests

Meanwhile, the industry should also be braced for more GMO labeling proposals at state level (Click here to read about I-522 GMO labeling proposal in Washington State), despite the defeat of Californian proposal Proposition 37, he said.

“Having a patchwork of different state laws that address the GMO issue is not in the industry's best interests.”

Should such a scenario emerge, a federal solution may have to be developed in order to ensure that labeling is consistent across all states and that some of the problematic aspects of Prop 37 are addressed such as the 'natural' definition and the bounty hunter clauses, added Council for Responsible Nutrition government relations VP Mike Greene.

NPA: On a mission to defend the industry against media distortions and ‘just plain false attacks’

As for supplements, the NPA remains “focused on preventing any legislation attacking the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA)”, says Shaw.

“For example, language that would add registration requirements for dietary supplements. We anticipate that we will face these challenges during the next year, and we will work to maintain the framework laid out in DSHEA.

In 2012, he says, ”NPA led the charge against the FDA’s New Dietary Ingredients draft guidance, and as a result of our efforts and those of our industry allies, the FDA agreed to substantially rewrite the draft.

“By generating more than 2,000 messages to Congress within 48 hours, NPA also helped defeat the harmful Durbin amendment in May that would have imposed needless new regulations on supplements.”

More broadly, he says, the NPA’s mission is “defending the industry against media distortions and just plain false attacks against the industry”.

He adds: “We have seen instances of this both in Congress as well as the mainstream media. Looking ahead to 2013, NPA will continue educating members of Congress about dietary supplements and correcting those in the media who spread misinformation about the industry.”

CSPI: Salt, sugary drinks, junk-food marketing to kids, menu labeling and action on Nutrition Facts panel

And finally... if Sen Durbin is likely to be back on the warpath in 2013, so is the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which tells us that its top priorities for 2013 include spurring action on FSMA; finalizing menu-labeling regulations; obtaining issuance by USDA of proposals concerning competitive foods in schools; having the FDA revoke the GRAS status of partially hydrogenated oils; and getting the FDA to limit - and encouraging companies voluntarily to lower - sodium in the food supply.

"Other priorities", executive director Michael Jacobson PhD tells us, "include continuing our campaigns to reduce consumption of sugary drinks and stop the marketing of junk-food marketing to children.  Our litigation unit will be initiating actions to stop deceptive food labels and advertisements.  

"And we'll be encouraging the FDA to update the Nutrition Facts panel [check out FoodNavigator-USA later this week for more on this]."

  

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