New food standards to drive US innovation

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food, Nutrition, Food and drug administration

The US Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is debating
whether to create a new set of food standards in order to encourage
more nutritious food formulation, writes Anthony Fletcher.

The proposed revision reflects growing consumer awareness over health and also recent technological advances that have made new food formulations possible.

The FSIS intends that the general principles will lead to the updating of existing standards or the creation of new standards with the goal of allowing industry to continue to produce safe and wholesome products while stimulating technological innovation.

"Today's action starts us down the road on a set of general principles that mark a significant step toward modernizing food standards,"​ said acting FSIS administrator Barbara J. Masters.

"The rule will likely encourage the development of food products with better nutritional profiles and stimulate innovations in food processing technology. The rule, if adopted, will allow both agencies to better utilize resources to better protect public health."

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is also involved in the proposed reconstitution of the rules.

"These proposed changes to the food standards process will optimize use of new food processing and packaging technologies in the development of food products geared to the needs of today's consumer,"​ said Dr. Robert Brackett, director of FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

"Moreover, this is an excellent example of the type of collaboration between the nation's food safety agencies that ensures the American consumer safer, more diverse foods on the grocery shelves."

In the US, both the FSIS and FDA share the responsibility for ensuring that food labels are truthful and not misleading. FSIS has authority to regulate the labeling for meat, poultry, and processed egg products while FDA regulates the labeling of all other foods.

The new standards would specifically prescribe minimum amounts of certain ingredients, such as meat or poultry or milk fat; maximum fat and water contents and methods of processing, cooking and preparation. The purpose of food standards, says the FSIS, is to ensure that the basic nature of foods is maintained to meet consumers' expectations.

The debate over revising the food standards comes at a time when the issue of food labels in the US has noticeably increased in importance. A bill requiring all food makers operating in the US market to identify, "in plain, common language",​ the presence of any of the eight major food allergens - milk, egg, peanut, tree nut, fish, shellfish, wheat and soy - comes into force on 1 January 2006.

The new US rules also require that the FDA conducts inspections and issues a report within 18 months to ensure that food manufacturers are complying with practices "to reduce or eliminate cross-contact of a food with any major food allergens that are not intentional ingredients of the food"​.

Despite the recent attention given to peanut allergies, the most widespread allergy suffered by Americans is that of fish and seafood, in particular salmon and shrimp, which effects around 6.5 million people - mainly adults - in the States. This is twice as many as those affected by allergies to peanuts and treenuts.

Related topics: Regulation

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