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FDA Issues Draft Egg Safety Rule Guidance for Producers Who Give Hens Outdoor Access

July 23, 2013

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FDA issued draft guidance Egg Safety Rule today, which can be found here.  From FDA’s press release:

FDA is issuing draft guidance with practical and reasonable food safety controls to help egg producers who provide their laying hens with outdoor access comply with the Egg Safety Rule and thereby prevent Salmonella Enteritidis (SE) in shell eggs. FDA believes the draft guidance will help clarify how the Egg Safety Rule applies to their operations so the egg producers can confidently and efficiently implement the appropriate food safety measures.

The draft guidance describes different types of poultry houses and outdoor access areas and offers practical measures to control for SE by preventing wild birds, rodents, and other animals from entering the outdoor access areas and advice on conducting environmental sampling for SE.  It also discusses considerations related to vaccination of laying hens.

Meat Industry Sues USDA over Country of Origin Labeling

On July 8, 2013, a number of meat industry trade organizations filed suit against the USDA in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia challening USDA’s new country of original labeling (“COOL”) regulations.  A copy of the complaint can be found here.  In May of 2013, USDA issued immediately-effective revised COOL regulations requiring, among other things, that meat labeling make a distinction between where an animal was born, raised and slaughtered.  These regulations were issued in response to a World Trade Organization dispute between the United States, Mexico and Canada over then-existing COOL regulations in the United States.  Mexico and Canada have asserted that the May 2013 regulations only exacerbated the dispute.  More background on the WTO dispute can be found here.

Plaintiffs assert three causes of action.  First, they argue that the COOL regulations violate the First Amendment because they compel certain commercial speech

FDA Publishes Guidance on Proposed FSMA Produce Rule

July 15, 2013

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In support of FDA’s proposed produce rule implementing portions of the Food Safety Modernization Act, FDA issued today several publications to help small- and medium-sized growers understand their future obligations under the proposed rule.  FDA has been creating fact sheets to to describe requirements such as the obligation to assess potential routes of microbial contamination of produce.  The new publications include a fact sheet on the proposed agricultural water standards, which is one of those potential routes of microbial contamination.  FDA also issued a second fact sheet on alternatives and variances under the proposed produce rule, which will help producers develop alternative standards to comply with the rules.

FDA’s proposed produce rule remains open for public comment until September 16.  Like the proposed rule, FDA will accept comments on the fact sheets.

House Passes Farm Bill Without Food Stamp Program

The US House of Representatives passed Farm Bill legislation that was stripped of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP”), commonly known as the food stamp program. This was the first time since 1973 that the food stamp program was not part of the final Farm Bill, although SNAP remains part of the Farm Bill passed by the Senate.  The removal of SNAP stripped the Farm Bill of any remaining Democratic support in the House.  Rep. Frank Lucas, Republican Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, has indicated that he intends to prepare a separate food stamp bill as soon as he can “achieve consensus.”

Settlement Reached in “All-Natural” Class Action Regarding Food Products Containing GMO Ingredients

June 27, 2013

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In what is being billed as the first settlement of a class action suit alleging that the use of an “all natural” claim is deceptive where certain ingredients contain GMOs, Barbara’s Bakery Inc. has agreed to pay $4 million to the plaintiff class. The case, brought in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, centers around Barbara Bakery’s cereal and snack products manufactured with GMO ingredients. Under the settlement, class members may be eligible for refunds of up to $100 each, and Barbara’s Bakery agreed not to use marketing claims such as “all natural” in the future where products contain GMO ingredients. Barbara’s Bakery also agreed to eliminate GMO ingredients from many of the products at issue in the lawsuit, which elimination would need to be verified by the third party Non-GMO Project.

Litigation over use of marketing claims such as “all natural” or “100% natural” has increased significantly

USDA Approves First GMO-Free Label

June 27, 2013

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For the first time ever, the USDA has approved a GMO-free claim for use on meat and liquid egg products. As recently reported by the New York Times, USDA has granted a request advanced by several meat producers to allow products to be labeled as “[coming] from animals that never ate feed containing genetically engineered ingredients like corn, soy and alfalfa.” The producer must be able to support the claim through a third-party certification. As explained by USDA spokeswoman Cathy Cochran, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service “allows companies to demonstrate on their labels that they meet a third-party certifying organization’s standards, provided that the third-party organization and the company can show that the claims are truthful, accurate and not misleading.” In this case, the third-party certifying organization is the Non-GMO Project, which itself actively supported the USDA approval.  USDA has clarified that the approval did not

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