Image Source: Reuters/Andrew Kelly
In 2009, the USDA finalized labeling standards for meat that required country of origin labeling. Those standards allowed meat from animals born and raised abroad and only processed in the US to be labeled "Product of USA" and "Made in the USA." But most consumers believe the labels mean the product comes from animals born and raised in the US, according to a recent survey. So the agency has now, 14 years later, proposed changes to the rule. The US Cattlemen's Association cheered the changes, having lobbied for them for years, and arguing that the current rule disadvantages domestic producers and stifles competition. Truth in labeling. What a concept.
Image Source: US Department of Labor
Labor Department officials found that Packers Sanitation Services, America's largest food sanitation services company, employed at least 102 children ranging from age 13 to 17 in hazardous occupations in meat processing facilities across eight states. The children were exposed to hazardous chemicals and cleaned meat processing equipment, including back saws, brisket saws and head splitters. At least three of the children suffered injuries on the job. Packers has agreed to pay more than $1.5 million in civil penalties. The Labor Department has also launched a widespread crackdown on child migrant labor in other industries.
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Sesame is the ninth most common US allergen. As of January 1, this ingredient is now subject to the same labeling and manufacturing requirements as milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soybeans. According to a 2019 study, about 1 in 200 Americans report having an allergy to sesame, and about 1 in 4 of those have experienced severe reactions. Look for "CONTAINS SESAME" coming to food labels near you.
Image Source: Rick Bowmer/AP
In the wake of the infant formula shortage, an expert panel review of the Food and Drug Administration determined that its food division has no clear leadership, avoids bold policy or enforcement actions, and doesn’t adequately protect public health. The panel recommends restructuring the organization to establish a food safety agency separate from the drug division. The FDA says it will release its new plans in January and begin implementing them in February. Will FDA Commissioner Robert Califf put a single deputy in charge of food safety? The budget is there; all that remains is the willpower.
Image Source: Ben Brewer/Reuters
Last year, California voted to improve bar the in-state sale of pork, veal and eggs from animals whose confinement failed to meet minimum space requirements (24 square feet for breeding pigs vs. the current 14-20 feet). The National Pork Producers Council sued, arguing that increased costs for pig farmers violate the "Commerce Clause," which prevents states from passing laws discriminating against commerce in other states. Proponents argue that CA has the right to set standards for products sold to CA consumers regardless of where they are produced. It's a sticky issue, and pork producers are hedging their bets. Top producer Smithfield Foods said last year it plans to comply, and #2 producer Seaboard Foods said it has already begun converting its facilities.