(Washington, D.C.) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's announcement that the Agency will propose a mandatory review process prior to the marketing of new biotech food products, as well as guidance for making label claims for "biotech" or "biotech-free" products, "is a win for consumer confidence in the acceptability of food biotechnology," according to the National Food Processors Association (NFPA).

"We applaud this decision. It reflects the recommendations we've repeatedly made to FDA," said Dr. Rhona Applebaum, NFPA's Executive Vice President of Scientific and Regulatory Affairs. "FDA's process for examining the existing regulatory framework, and for gathering input from the scientific community, the food industry, and consumer organizations, has been inclusive and transparent, and their announced intention to make the review process mandatory is the right decision."

Dr. Applebaum noted that "Since FDA began reviewing the regulatory process governing food biotechnology last Fall, NFPA strongly stated the food industry's position that consumer confidence would be improved if FDA made the review process mandatory, and the information on which their decisions are based were transparent and publicly available. We firmly believe this aspect of the process must be compulsory, prior to biotech companies introducing any such biotech food into the market. FDA's announcement indicates that this revised review process will be thorough, rigorous, and scientifically based, which we believe will lead to increased consumer confidence in this important technology."

On the issue of label claims, Dr. Applebaum stated that " We applaud FDA for indicating that they will set criteria for ensuring that any label claims for 'biotech' or 'biotech-free' products are truthful and non-misleading for consumers. NFPA and its member companies have strongly supported the current FDA policy on labeling requirements for biotech foods. We believe it is essential that mandatory labeling be reserved for information that is material - that is, information that goes to the safety, health, composition, or nutritional value of the food."

Dr. Applebaum pointed out that "FDA's announcement reflects the recommendations made in the National Academy of Sciences' recent report on food biotechnology. The report clearly supports the safety of food biotechnology, noting that 'The Committee that wrote the report emphasized it was not aware of any evidence suggesting foods on the market today are unsafe to eat as a result of genetic modification.' Moreover, the report stated that no strict distinction exists between the health and environmental risks posed by the products of agricultural biotechnology and those modified by conventional breeding practices." She added that "NFPA agrees with the report's recommendations that FDA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Environmental Protection Agency better coordinate their regulatory activities and expand public access to the process."

Dr. Applebaum concluded that "NFPA looks forward to reviewing FDA's proposals on this issue, and to working with the Agency to ensure that the regulatory process for agricultural biotechnology not only rigorously oversees the safety of such products but also builds the confidence of consumers in this promising technology."