The monthly industry round-up seeks to compile updates concerning events that affect the overall industry each month.
May 2020 continued a trend of unprecedented events in response to the public health crisis caused by the Coronavirus COVID-19.
So far during the global response to this pandemic, we have typically sought to focus the articles compiled in this update on other industry news that may not have been covered in the media as much or been overlooked during these times of rapid response, however, this month special focus starts on news from the FDA on the topic of remote audits, labeling requirements and program extensions.
Remote audits to commence
The FDA has announced it is looking to conduct audits and inspections remotely due to the current ongoing public health crisis caused by COVID-19.
The announcement is being facilitated under the Foreign Supplier Verification Program which allows the FDA authority to issue written requests for records to be submitted electronically however, the FDA is still able to conduct onsite FSVP inspections in urgent cases.
Remote audits are a significant challenge in the industry currently but companies utilizing Safefood 360° already are able to conduct full and effective remote audits that facilitate both the food business and external inspectors and certification companies.
Temporary labeling permitted
The FDA is allowing temporary flexibility for food labeling requirements. This will allow manufacturers to make minor formulation changes to recipes without updating labels to reflect the change, as long as they are not introducing allergens or other foods known to cause sensitivities to the food.
The FDA has advised that when considering if a label change is appropriate companies should consider the following:
- Characterizing Ingredient
- Nutrition / Function
Application period for import program extended
The FDA has also announced that due to COVID-19, it will extend the application period for the Voluntary Qualified Importer Program to July 31st.
It is invisioned that the extended date for applications should not affect the beginning of the program which coincides with the federal fiscal year and is due to start on October 1st, 2020.
EU countries utilize interim rules for official controls as part of COVID-19 response
Elsewhere, in Europe, other interim measures have been implemented in response to the Covid-19 public health crisis as many European countries have taken advantage of temporary measures which give nations more flexibility to implement official controls.
These controls include clinical examination of animals, checks on products of animal origin, plant products, and food and feed of non-animal origin, as well as testing samples in official laboratories.
Australian University makes major advancements in salmonella prevention
Scientists at the University of New South Wales in Australia have developed a DNA test for identifying the most common variations of Salmonella in Australia.
The tests have been created to detect salmonella at a rapid pace by analyzing as few as 10 copies of DNA in 8 minutes and can be deployed quickly to detect the source of salmonella outbreaks and improve overall public health during outbreaks of foodborne illness.
EFSA review Campylobacter control options for poultry
The European Food Safety Authority have selected eight control options for mitigating against the presence and risk of Campylobacter in chickens for further consideration.
The decision eliminates 16 other controls from consideration and will now focus EFSA efforts on the following control options:
- Feed and water additives
- Discontinued thinning
- Employing few and well-trained staff
- Avoiding drinkers that allow standing water
- Addition of disinfectants to drinking water
- Hygienic anterooms at broiler house entrance
- Designated tools per broiler house
Genetically Modified Foods & Organisms Update from USA and Australia/New Zealand
The US Department of Agriculture released final regulations for genetically modified/engineered organisms.
The USDA claim the findings reveal the most significant update to plant biotechnology regulations in more than three decades and promote the Sustainable, Ecological, Consistent, Uniform, Responsible, Efficient (SECURE) rule, however, its findings have already come into criticism from the Center For Food Safety who claim that some GMOs will now no longer be regulated and that it does not address the issue of noxious weeds.
Elsewhere, in Australia and New Zealand, FSANZ have revealed that it still intends to pursue its position on GM foods and extend their use in spite of delays attributed to the coronavirus.
It’s calls for submission on the matter have already been delayed until later in the year and all dates of completion other than commencement have been deemed ‘To Be Completed’.
Despite this, FSANZ maintains that it hopes to accept public comments in 2020.
US & UK beef and pork updates
Prior to the effects and spread of coronavirus, US pork exports broke value and volume records during March.
Export volumes reached 291,459 metric tons in March, which was up from 38% year-on-year. The value of these exports grew 47% to $764.2m and overall quarter pork exports increased in volume o 40% to a value of $2.23bn.
Elsewhere, beef exports also recorded year-on-year growth as well, however, more modestly raising 7% and 4% respectively in terms of volume and value.
With many food facilities closing throughout multiple states during the month in response to public health concerns it is expected April and May exports could be slowed, or even down, however, these figures had not shown in the March findings.
Conversely, in the UK, exports of lamb both dropped across the board during March to all major markets, and although beef remained static in volume exports, its value decreased by 23% year-on-year.
EFSA ruling that Ochratoxin A likely poses a health risk in food
EFSA has announced that Ochratoxin A poses a likely health risk in food.
Having reviewed more than 70,000 submissions of results over a 10 year period, limits on the mycotoxin are advised to be between 0.5 to 10 micrograms per kilogram depending on the food type which can include cereals, dried vine fruits, e.g., currants, raisins, sultanas, multiple types of coffee, wine, and grape juice.