Trade issues were again at the centre of US regulatory news in June, with the Bush Administration re-opening negotiations with the EU to lift US$116.8m in sanctions imposed in 1999 after the EU refused to open its markets to hormone-treated beef. A current option under consideration is that the EU “compensate” the US beef industry by creating an import quota for beef from untreated cattle. US beef exporters are urging the Bush Administration not to make a deal.

“US capitulation on the principle central to this case could have major negative implications for US beef shipments to other markets and would set a dangerous trade policy precedent,” said American Meat Institute senior vice president for Regulatory Affairs and General Counsel Mark Dopp.

Other trade news included President Bush’s continued push for congressional passage of trade promotion authority legislation, also known as fast-track. The legislation would allow the president to negotiate broad trade agreements that Congress cannot amend, but would need to accept or reject as a whole.

In a meeting with agriculture industry representatives in June, Bush said, ”The job of this administration must be to open up more markets for ag products. I want America to feed the world,” Bush said. ”It starts with having an administration committed to knocking down barriers to trade, and we are.”

Other Agency news

US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) scientists and officials continue to urge EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman to release a study, originally published in 1994, that concludes that that consumption of animal fat and dairy products containing traces of dioxin can cause cancer in humans. A spokesman for Whitman said that a final decision would be put off until other agencies, including the USDA, FDA and the Justice Department, have an opportunity to review the study.

Industry groups including the Chemical Manufacturers Association, the American Meat Institute and the National Cattlemen’s and Beef Association argue that the study is flawed and exaggerates the health risk dioxin poses.

Meanwhile, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued more warnings to food companies against the use of “novel ingredients. The agency sent letters to three companies whose products contain ginkgo biloba, Siberian ginseng and echinacea as part of its effort to protect “the integrity of the conventional food supply.” FDA warns that food makers using these herbs may be asked to come forward with scientific evidence to prove that their ingredients are safe.

The FDA also announced plans to inspect thousands of US candy makers, bakeries and other processors over the next two years to be certain that ingredients that cause common allergic reactions do not accidentally get into food products. The planned inspections, which could involve as many as 6,000 plants, came after FDA tested an assortment of cookie, ice cream and candy plants in Minnesota and Wisconsin and discovered that a quarter of them had products containing ingredients such as peanuts that were not disclosed on product labels.

Recent news from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) includes positive results from its revised HACCP-based slaughter inspection project – showing a 99.9% reduction in defects over traditional inspection. Under the program, inspectors no longer do hands-on checks of carcasses, leaving that to company employees. Instead, they concentrate on verifying the adequacy of the plants’ HACCP system and visually checking the carcasses. USDA hopes to expand the system nationwide and is drafting a proposed rule to make the necessary regulatory changes.

The Bush Administration is asking Congress to include an additional US$35m in its FY2001 supplemental appropriations request for USDA funding to better protect US agriculture from animal diseases such as foot and mouth disease (FMD) and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

The USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) reported in June that the estimated annual economic loss due to five common types of food-borne pathogens is US$7bn a year. The yearly cost due to e. coli O157:H7 was US$659.1m. STEC caused 31,229 illnesses estimated to cost US$329.7m. Listeria caused 2,298 illnesses at a cost of US$2.33bn a year. The various types of salmonella affect 1.34 million people, costing US$2.38bn overall. Campylobacter caused 1.85 million illnesses at a cost of US$1.21bn annually.


H. Gregg Claycamp, Ph.D., CHP, has joined FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) as the Senior Advisor for Risk Assessment. Dr. Claycamp will help develop the antimicrobial risk assessment policy for CVM. He will also serve as the senior scientist for that agency’s Office of New Animal Drug Evaluation (ONADE) in all other risk assessment issues.

The FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition announced the appointment of Robert Brackett, Ph.D., as the center’s Food Safety Director. In this position, Dr Brackett will provide leadership for FDA’s food safety work, overseeing all aspects of food safety across the broad range of FDA’s food safety responsibilities.

Check back next month for updates and new developments.

By Pam Ahlberg

Pam can be reached by email at: