GMA Eyes Nutrition, Food Safety

WASHINGTON — New rules concerning food safety, the Toxic Substances Control Act and nutrition are among the legislative and regulatory items on the radar of Grocery Manufacturers Association here in 2012.

This month the Food and Drug Administration is expected to release some of the rules for implementation of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, according to Scott Faber, vice president for federal affairs at GMA.

“We expect to work closely with FDA to make sure those rules are workable, are science-based and avoid duplication,” he told SN.

So far, he said, “FDA’s pre-rule engagement has been a model for how agencies work with industry to collect their input and lay the groundwork for workable, science-based rules.”

The food safety rules expected this month involve preventative controls, foreign supplier safety and the role of third-party auditors.

In addition, he said GMA plans to continue working with the Alliance for a Stronger FDA to secure more funding for the agency. The FDA received $50 million in additional funding for fiscal 2012, he noted, including $40 million for implementing the new food safety law.

GMA is also continuing to work with congressional leaders to modernize the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976, or TSCA, following hearings last year to determine what chemicals and substances can be used in food production.

“It’s not a bill that has to be reauthorized, but we are certainly hopeful that Congress will take steps to modernize TSCA, and in particular to review chemicals that were grandfathered when Congress passed the law in 1976,” Faber said.

Another issue that GMA expects to be debated in 2012 involves the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, and how the benefits can be used by recipients. The program is funded through the Farm Bill, up for renewal in 2012.

“We think that having 50 states with 50 different lists of what products can and cannot be used will create extraordinary administrative costs, and consumer confusion, without ultimately impacting diets,” Faber said. “We think these proposals will cause new costs for industry and significant new costs for government without providing any new public health benefit.”

GMA is also watching out for a new rule on the nutrition facts panel, and expects to work closely with FDA and provide comments on that issue.

Other issues GMA is watching include:

• A proposal to eliminate government controls on sugar, which could lower prices and “create a free market for sugar,” Faber said.

• The Trans-Pacific Partnership, which could open up more Asian markets to GMA members.

• Restrictions on food products sold in schools.