food safety

As damage continues, EPA ponders whether dicamba is safe to use at all

The notoriously volatile weedkiller dicamba was blamed for 3,500 incidents of "off-target" damage this year, including to more than 1 million acres of soybeans, said the EPA on Tuesday. The regulator said it was reviewing whether dicamba "can be used in a manner that does not pose unreasonable risks" and said it would help states that wish to restrict use of the herbicide.

FDA proposes water rule for produce growers

Fruit and vegetable growers would be required to conduct annual assessments of their water supplies to identify and mitigate threats of contamination for their crops under a rule proposed by the FDA on Thursday. The assessments would replace a requirement that growers conduct tests of water quality.

Biden taps long-time USDA scientist to oversee food safety

Jose Esteban, the chief scientist at USDA's meat inspection agency, is President Biden's choice to become agriculture undersecretary for food safety, announced the White House. If confirmed by the Senate, Esteban would be the USDA leader on issues ranging from prevention of food-borne illness to regulation of cell-cultured meat, now approaching commercialization.

Califf nominated to run FDA for a second time

Dr. Robert Califf, who led the FDA during the last year of the Obama administration, would run the agency again if the Senate agrees with President Biden's nomination. The president said Califf "has the experience and expertise to lead the Food and Drug Administration during a critical time in our nation’s fight to put an end to the coronavirus pandemic."

USDA will seek improvements to salmonella controls

Pointing to the tens of thousands of salmonella illnesses linked to poultry products each year, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said on Tuesday that the USDA would mobilize "a stronger and more comprehensive effort" to reduce the risk of the disease-causing bacteria in raw poultry meat. The process could include pilot projects that encourage "pre-harvest controls" on the farm, an area not directly under USDA jurisdiction.

USDA may enlist farmers in its efforts to reduce salmonella in poultry

The USDA's food safety agency is considering new approaches to reduce salmonella bacteria in poultry that could include "pre-harvest interventions" on the farm, said Agriculture Deputy Undersecretary Saundra Eskin on Tuesday. "We know that most salmonella contamination enters the facility with the birds and the more we can do to reduce contamination at the point of slaughter, the less contamination and cross-contamination we have in an establishment."

Eskin appointed to No. 2 food safety post at USDA

Sandra Eskin, director of food safety for the Pew Charitable Trusts, was appointed deputy undersecretary for food safety, announced the USDA on Tuesday.

Presidential election should be followed by a national food strategy, says report

The coronavirus pandemic, which has disrupted food supplies and heightened food insecurity, should be the impetus for unified oversight of the food system, now splintered among dozens of regulatory agencies, said an "urgent call" for action from groups at the Harvard and Vermont law schools on Thursday.

U.S. and Mexico broaden food safety partnership

Food regulators from Mexico and the United States issued a statement of intent on Monday to expand a six-year-old partnership on food safety to cover all of the human food regulated by the FDA. Mexico is a leader in food trade with the United States; about one-third of all the food imported …

If farmworkers suffer a coronavirus outbreak, the nation’s food supply is at risk

In the coming weeks and months, tens of thousands of migrant farmworkers will arrive in agricultural centers across the nation, where they will live and work in conditions that are prime for a coronavirus outbreak. Yet despite the fact that these are the men and women Americans depend on to plant, tend, and harvest their food, "these workers and their advocates say that many of the farmers who employ them have provided virtually no information on how they can protect themselves, their co-workers, and their families from the coronavirus — creating the potential for a massive public-health and food-security crisis."(No paywall)

Scientists say lax regulation of chemicals in food packaging endangers human health

Nine months after U.S. regulators found an industrial “forever chemical” in chocolate cake at levels some 250 times higher than federal recommendations, nearly three dozen independent scientists from 11 countries are warning that inadequate global regulations of chemicals in food packaging pose a growing risk to human health.(No paywall)

Are foodborne-illness outbreaks getting worse, or is detection getting better?

From lettuce to cookies, avocados to cheesecake, the last few years have seen a number of high-profile food recalls. According to the CDC, an estimated 48 million Americans get sick each year from foodborne illnesses. But the question of whether such outbreaks are getting worse is complicated, due to a combination of improved detection technology, a looser approach to regulation, and growing consolidation in the food industry, as Leah Douglas reports in FERN's latest story, published as part of Time magazine's special issue on the Science of Nutrition.(No paywall)

Avoid romaine lettuce from Salinas, FDA tells consumers amid E. coli outbreak

Following an outbreak of foodborne illness that sickened 40 people in 16 states, the FDA urged consumers to "not eat romaine lettuce harvested from Salinas, California." Romaine from other regions is not implicated but if there is any doubt about the origin of lettuce, "throw it away or return it to the place of purchase," said the agency on Friday.

Higher risk of cross-contamination when chicken is washed

Consumers are more likely to spread bacteria from raw chicken to salad ingredients when they wash the chicken, according to a USDA-funded study released on Tuesday.

USDA tiptoes into cell-based ‘meat ‘ argument

An estimated 40 companies worldwide are in the race to bring to market cell-based meat — "clean meat" in the eyes of proponents and "fake meat" according to ranchers. Asked if the product qualifies as meat, Deputy Agriculture Undersecretary Mindy Brashears responded, "This is something we will be talking about. That is an important priority for us."

FDA to delay ag-water rule until 2022

The FDA will soon announce a two-year delay on a rule setting water-quality standards for large produce farms, said Frank Yiannas, the agency’s deputy commissioner for food safety, on Thursday.

GE salmon cleared for U.S. dinner plates

More than three years after the FDA approved, for the first time, a genetically engineered animal as safe to eat, the government opened the door for AquaBounty Technologies to grow and sell its GE salmon in the United States. A biotech trade group said the fish, which developers say grows twice as fast as as conventional Atlantic salmon on 25-percent less feed, will "contribute to a more sustainable food supply."

As USDA and FDA agree on oversight, aggies rail against ‘fake meat’

In a step that moves a new industry closer to commercial reality, the premier federal food-safety agencies agreed on Thursday on how to jointly regulate cell-based meat, a laboratory-grown protein that farm groups call “fake meat.” The FDA will oversee cell collection and growth, while the USDA will oversee harvesting and processing, and have final say over labeling.

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