September 2021 Food Safety News and Industry Round-up

FDA update

A new Office of Digital Transformation

The FDA has stepped up its efforts to prioritise its technology and data efforts with the launch of a new Office of Digital Transformation.

The new office will realign the information technology, data management, and cyber security roles for the agency into a central office that reports directly to the FDA commissioner.

It is envisioned that the new office will aid the FDA in streamlining its data and management processes through enabling best practices, shared services, and technological efficiencies in a strategic and secure way.

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New interim director appointed for Office of Dietary Supplement Programs

Gregory Noonan, Ph.D., who has been at the organisation since 2002 will replace the acting interim Director Cara Welch, Ph.D. as part of a mandated internal personnel switch while the process for a new permanent director continues.

The switch comes as part of preventing an acting Director from acting too long in the absence of a permanent appointment.

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US foodborne illness decreases in 2020

A report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that its FoodNet surveillance system indicated a 26% decrease in food-borne illness compared during 2020 compared to the average rate between 2017-2019.

It is suspected that the decrease is due to a combination of factors from the Covid-19 pandemic ranging from more handwashing and sanitation measures to simply just less travel and increased restaurant closures.

Of the reported microbiological hazards, Campylobacter had the highest incidence rate with 14.4 infections per 100,000 people, followed closely by Salmonella with an incidence rate of 13.3 and Shiga toxin-producing E.coli with 3.6.

While foodborne illness rates were down in 2020, the US is currently experiencing a growing Salmonella outbreak that has now sickened more than 280 people across 29 states with the origins still to be determined.

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More on the growing Salmonella outbreak

Food fraud potentially on the rise in Europe

A report from the European Commission’s DG Sante has revealed that fats and oils are still the most contested categories for European countries when tackling food fraud.

The EU Agri-Food Fraud Network findings showed that the number of cases the EU Commission has had to investigate related to fraud has more than doubled from 157 in 2016 to 349 in 2020.

While the cases have increased, it does not necessarily mean that food fraud has increased within the European Union as not all cases are confirmed to be in violation of EU law and not all are resolved.


UK trade

UK food exports fail to plug £2.2bn EU loss

The Food and Drink Federation has claimed that despite having increased, UK food and drink exports to non-EU countries have failed to cover the fall in sales to EU.

Sales to non-EU countries rose by 13% in the first half of 2021, but food and drink sales were still £2bn below pre-COVID-19 levels.

Exports to Ireland are already estimated at more than £0.5bn and UK imports were also down almost 10% for the half-year period.

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UK pork producers receive a boost from Mexican trade agreement

Elsewhere,  pork producers have received a boost with the announcement of a trade deal with Mexico said to be worth £50m during the first five years of trade.

The deal comes after more than four years of negotiations and inspections with a test pilot scheme in 2020 and precedes a commitment between the two states to start negotiations on a new free trade agreement.

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UK delay EU food import control checks

Amid ongoing issues with supply chain deliverability, the UK government has again pushed back control checks for some food products imported from the European Union.

The decision affects a number of different checks that were due to begin starting in October and January and which will now be pushed back to begin January and July 2022 respectively.

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New President for World Cocoa Foundation

The World Cocoa Foundation has announced that Martin Short has been appointed to fill its vacant President position.

Short comes to the WCF having served as CEO of the UK and US-based non-profit, The Power of Nutrition.

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Import restrictions on Fukushima products eased by US and EU

After more than 10 years following an incident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, restrictions on importing goods from the region have been eased by both the US and EU.

While the US decision to remove restrictions comes following a decade of monitoring showing no serious cause for concern to public health as well as satisfaction with the controls placed by Japanese authorities, the European Union have indicated that while they will continue to sample and analyse some products, they can begin to remove them for others.

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