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Obama to review FDA; peanut recalls mount

2/2009-According to an article in The New York Times, President Obama says he wants to review how the Food and Drug Administration works. “I think that the FDA has not been able to catch some of these things as quickly as I expect them to,” said Obama in an interview that aired Feb. 2 on NBC’s Today show. The administration has yet to appoint a new FDA director, and this decision may be further held up because of the uncertainty over who will head the Dept. of Health and Human Services—the agency that oversees the FDA.

This comes after Peanut Corp. of America (PCA) announced Jan. 28 an expanded recall of all products produced in its Blakely, Ga. facility. Previously, PCA announced a recall of peanut butter and peanut paste; now the recall includes all peanuts (dry and oil roasted), granulated peanuts, peanut meal, peanut butter and peanut paste produced since Jan. 1, 2007. Because of this expanded recall, the number of food products being pulled from store shelves continues to rise. Currently, more than 800 consumer products have been recalled, leading FDA officials to call this one of the largest recalls ever. In a teleconference on Jan. 30, Robert Tauxe, Deputy Director of the Division of Foodborne Bacteria and Mycotic Diseases of the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, confirmed that 529 persons from 43 states and an additional person in Canada have been infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella. In that same teleconference, Stephen Sundlof, Director Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition at the FDA, confirmed that the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigation is involved in a Justice Department investigation of PCA.

Defining natural foods

7/2008-The term “natural” adds a premium to food products and makes them appear fresher, minimally processed, and safer. But consumers and the food industry will have to wait to know exactly what natural does – or does not—mean.

Despite the term’s widespread use, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) discourages the food industry from using “natural” on labels because of its ambiguity. As well, “natural” implies that a food product is superior, fresher, safer or more healthful than its counterparts, said the FDA’s Ritu Nalubola.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires only that natural products be free of artificial or synthetic ingredients or additives that would otherwise be "not normally expected," said Ritu Nalubola of the FDA.

In 1991, FDA tried to define the term and, by 1993, gave up. The agency decided to not restrict the use of ‘natural’ on products. "It is a very complex term," Nalubola said.

~ Reprinted courtesy of The Institute of Food Technologists

Jalapeno and serrano peppers may be linked to outbreak

7/2008-FDA has updated the nationwide warning to concerning the outbreak of Salmonella Saintpaul.

The FDA states: Although epidemiological and other evidence continues to have a strong association with certain raw tomatoes, a recent case control study and disease cluster information provided by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) indicate that not only tomatoes, but also raw jalapeno and serrano peppers may be linked to illnesses in this continuing outbreak.

High risk populations such as elderly persons, infants and people with impaired immune systems should not consume raw jalapeno and raw serrano peppers. Consumers are advised to continue to avoid raw red plum, red Roma, or red round tomatoes, except for those grown in areas that are not associated with the outbreak.

~ Reprinted courtesy of The Institute of Food Technologists