public health

FDA updates criteria for when ‘healthy’ can appear on a food label

More foods could carry the word “healthy” on the label under an FDA proposal announced on Wednesday, if they are part of a healthy dietary pattern and recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The agency said it was updating its criteria for the “healthy” label in hopes of improving the U.S. diet.

Flavored milk is top source of added sugar in school meals, says report

The great majority of public schools serve breakfasts and lunches that contain higher amounts of added sugar than recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, said a USDA report to Congress. “The main source of added sugars ... was flavored fat-free milk,” it said.

As weather warms, algae blooms on waterways nationwide

With views of the Rocky Mountains, the occasional squadron of American white pelicans passing through, and a boardwalk for strolling, northern Colorado’s Windsor Lake is a popular destination for paddle boarding, kayaking, and swimming. But the lake is off-limits this week after city officials sampled the water and found concerning levels of blue-green algae, which can contain toxins harmful to humans, pets, and wildlife. (No paywall)

FDA says it will permanently streamline infant formula imports

A crash program to streamline U.S. imports of infant formula has worked so well, the FDA will make it permanent, said agency leaders on Wednesday. The program, which began in May when domestic supplies ran low, has resulted in shipments from nine countries of enough formula to fill 400 million 8-ounce bottles.

Flights to deliver 680,000 pounds of infant formula

The administration’s Operation Fly Formula will deliver 680,000 pounds of infant formula from makers in Great Britain and Australia beginning on June 9, said the White House on Wednesday. The deliveries would be the equivalent of 8.3 million 8-ounce bottles of formula.

Formula supply will improve ‘in a matter of days,’ says FDA chief

U.S. infant formula makers are revving up production and the door is open to imported formula, so “we should see improvement in a matter of days” from shortages nationwide, FDA commissioner Robert Califf said Thursday on Capitol Hill. Califf also said he would strengthen food safety procedures at the agency, though key lawmakers argued he was not going far enough.

To fight shortage, Biden gives infant formula makers priority for materials

President Biden invoked his executive powers on Wednesday to give infant formula manufacturers first call on ingredients, and announced Operation Fly Formula, which would carry formula from overseas suppliers to the United States. Both steps were aimed at alleviating shortages that followed the shutdown of a large formula plant in Michigan, where FDA inspectors found bacteria that can cause foodborne illness.

Biden pledges to ‘combat hunger and improve nutrition for every American’

In a White House video, President Biden said on Wednesday that the administration would “lay out our plan to combat hunger and improve nutrition for every American” at the hunger, nutrition, and health conference set for September. More than 10 percent of Americans were food insecure and hunger rates spiked during the early months of the pandemic.

U.S. to look at alcohol, sustainability separately from Dietary Guidelines

In a first step toward a new edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the government proposed a list of questions for experts to consider, addressing such issues as obesity, the consumption of ultra-processed foods, and strategies for diet quality and weight management. Two hot-button issues — alcoholic beverages and sustainable food production — will be considered separately, it said.

Covid-19 public health emergency extension keeps SNAP benefits boost in place

The Biden administration extended the Covid-19 public health emergency on Wednesday, keeping increased nutrition benefits for millions of families in place for the coming months.

Nutrition security, a step above food security, is USDA goal, says Vilsack

After decades of fighting hunger with food stamps, WIC, and school lunch, the USDA will raise its aim to nutrition security, meaning consistent access to healthful foods for all Americans, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Thursday. The new approach will rely on food education and outreach to neglected groups as well as stronger nutrition standards in federal food programs.

USDA eases WIC rules during infant formula recall

With a massive recall of infant formula underway, the USDA encouraged state and tribal officials on Wednesday to ensure that WIC recipients could exchange their recalled baby formula and use their WIC benefits to buy replacement products. Abbott announced a recall of three of its formula brands last week.

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.

Danger signs for 2023 farm bill in partisan rancor on Capitol Hill

Congress traditionally enacts the farm policy bills covering the gamut from crop subsidies to food stamps at the urging of a coalition of farm, conservation and anti-hunger groups. A former USDA official said the 2023 farm bill could be in peril if there is a repetition of the political turbulence that temporarily derailed the omnibus legislation twice in the eight years.

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.

Bills call for uniformity in front-of-package nutrition labels

Lawmakers filed companion bills in the House and Senate on Wednesday to create a standard format for front-of-package nutrition labels so consumers will have a better idea of what's in their food.

EPA to ban agricultural use of chlorpyrifos

Ending 14 years of regulatory and court battles, the EPA announced on Wednesday that it would ban agricultural use of the insecticide chlorpyrifos, which has been linked to learning disorders and can cause nausea, dizziness, and confusion. Regulators ended residential use of the pesticide, which works by attacking the nervous systems of insects, two decades ago.

WIC program saw widespread declines during the pandemic

Participation in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) saw widespread declines during the pandemic, continuing a trend that took hold over the past decade due to significant enrollment hurdles. The declines contrasted with the sharp rise in demand for programs like SNAP and Medicaid. (No paywall)

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