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Monthly Archives: August 2012

A New Day for Food Safety

Federal food safety regulation now marches to a new drummer. Preventing, not reacting, is the new paradigm set by the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).  Being rolled out over two years, the 2011 law is the first major revamp of food safety laws since the 1930s.

 While some provisions are already in effect, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continues to lag behind in its rulemaking schedule. FSMA is already a complex law, with effective dates that vary by provision. The fits and starts of the rulemaking process add to the confusion being confronted by the coffee and other industries.

 Big Changes

Some of the changes are big — like mandatory recalls, importer accountability for food safety, and presumptive liability for reasonably foreseeable risks. Other provisions include expanded authority for administrative detention, increased records retention and access requirements, and more frequent facility inspections.

 In general terms, the FSMA approach targets identifiable entry points of contamination. It assesses the likelihood and level of risk and erects regulatory “firewalls” against those risks. Procedurally, the statute grants enhanced powers to the FDA and assigns new responsibilities to those along the supply chain.

 For the FDA, there’s more authority to monitor and address potential vulnerabilities at various steps along the supply chain. For example, the FDA gets new jurisdiction over food manufacturing and holding practices. For those along the supply chain, FSMA heightens standards of accountability and traceability to ensure a safe and unbroken chain of custody. Companies that pack, receive or hold foods are on the legal hook for contaminated goods since they “knew or should have known” of problem conditions.

Key Provisions

Here are FSMA’s key provisions:

1.      The FDA has the authority to recall food on a mandatory basis. Previously, the FDA could simply issue its recommendation for voluntary recalls.

2.      Importers are held legally responsible for the safety of the foods they import under a high standard of there being a “reasonable probability of serious health effects.” Prior to FSMA, importers could pass food through without an obligation to inspect the food for safety risks.

3.      Importers are also required to verify that imported food and food ingredients are produced in accordance with U.S. standards.

4.      Companies that simply pack, receive or hold foods will also be presumptively liable for any contamination of the foods they handle under a slightly lower standard that they “knew or should have known” of problem conditions.

5.      The FDA’s Administrative Detention powers are expanded, and the agency can now order food detained under a lower standard of having “reason to believe that such article is misbranded or adulterated.” The prior, lower standard was “credible evidence or information indicating that an item presents a threat of serious health consequences.”

6.      Food producers and manufacturers must engage Preventive Controls, having conducted hazard analyses of reasonably foreseeable hazards, including acts of terrorism.

7.      Records must be kept to trace food’s chain of custody to isolate potential contamination sources.

8.      The FDA has wider authority to gain emergency access to records.

9.      All import shipments must be pre-announced and accompanied by proper documentation

10.   Prior notice is required for shipments that have been rejected by another country for health reasons.

11.   The FDA can require more frequent inspections of domestic and foreign facilities, as well as periodic re-inspections.

12.   The FDA has the power to “de-register” a facility under a standard of “reasonable probability of serious health consequences.”

13.   The FDA funds FSMA enforcement through a schedule of fees for facility inspections.

14.   Qualified companies can subscribe to a “fast lane” clearance system for imports known as the Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP).

15.   Legal protection is accorded to whistleblowers against discrimination or retaliation

 Where Do Things Stand?

Most of the above FSMA provisions are already in effect. While enforcement is not yet uniform or certain, it is still legally required that companies comply.

 However, there are two notable exceptions – Preventive Controls and the FSVP. As the FDA continues to reach out for public comment on specific regulations, the agency has confirmed that it will not enforce preventive controls provisions until those regulations are in place and there has been ample time for implementation.  Also on hold is the FSVP, pending further regulatory work on logistics of verifying foreign suppliers’ risk-based safety measures.

 Going Forward

The FDA is three-fourths of the way to the end of its two-year mandate to complete rulemaking to implement FSMA.  However, with deadlines pushed back as well as FDA funding issues, it’s likely that the process will be delayed beyond year end. As the process continues to unfold, NCA will keep the industry informed. Watch Serving Coffee, the NCA website, and other NCA publications and communications.

A Matter of Health

Consumers are buffeted daily with confusing, if not conflicting, information about the foods and beverages they consume. Yesterday, whole eggs raised your cholesterol levels, while today they’re a source of healthy, non-saturated fat. Once it was thought that wine could damage your liver, while now it’s widely recognized as a cardiovascular boon.

Coffee is no stranger to the undulations of health messaging. Remember the stubborn old myths – like coffee stunts your growth, makes you dehydrated or is bad for your heart? Not only has science proven them wrong, but coffee now has a good and genuine story to tell.

What happened? Over the years, science got better and coffee finally got a fair hearing. In short, coffee got out from under the weighty burden of conflation.  That is, earlier methodologies couldn’t unlink coffee from other, contributing factors like smoking and poor diet. As more sophisticated techniques took hold, though, coffee got its own voice amid the scientific roar.

That voice, as it turns out, is loud and clear. Study after study has since linked coffee with an array of health benefits, ranging from liver function to cognitive performance. In fact, the expanding library of scientific evidence made the New York Times and U.S. News and World Report recognize coffee as a healthy food.

Among the most well-established associations between coffee and health are a reduced risk of Type II diabetes, protection against liver cancer, cirrhosis and other damage, and a preventive effect against cancers of the colon, breast, uterus  and other sites. Other studies have associated coffee with lower risk for gallstones, heart failure, stroke, Parkinson’s, dementia and Alzheimer’s. Coffee also hydrates as well as water. Coffee/caffeine has also been shown to sharpen mental acuity, boost physical performance and endurance, and reduce exercise-related pain. A recent Harvard University study found that coffee enhances longevity.

These findings echo significant progress in scientific inquiry and its methods. However, on some level, the benefits should not come as a surprise. Coffee is, after all, one of the most complex foods known to mankind.  The coffee we drink contains about 1200 compounds – about 800 occurring naturally in the green bean and another 400 created in the roasting process.  The closest runner-up is red wine, coming in at 450 chemical components.

Many of coffee’s compounds exhibit strong antioxidant properties as well as specific impacts on important physical systems. Chlorogenic acid, for instance, appears to play a significant role in the body’s sugar uptake mechanism and may be the source of coffee’s protective effect against diabetes. Methylpyridinium is a strong antioxidant that appears to protect the colon against cancer. Polyphenols, one of the major classes of antioxidant compounds, are found in abundance in coffee. In fact, coffee accounts for 60% of these antioxidants in the American diet.

The National Coffee Association regularly tracks research on coffee, caffeine and health, with a specialized committee of scientists who monitor and review all literature on an ongoing basis. For more information, visit www.ncausa.org.

NCA Kicks off Blog – Welcome to SERVING COFFEE

Welcome to the National Coffee Association new blog, Serving Coffee.

Describing coffee, Gertrude Stein once said “It’s a lot more than just a drink; it’s something happening.” The world’s most popular beverage, coffee does have a lot going on. 

Grown in 60 countries, it provides a livelihood for 25 million farming families. One of the world’s most traded commodities, it generates exports estimated at $16.6 billion and drives a retail market valued at $175.7 billion. A complex agricultural product with over 1,000 component substances, it’s a powerhouse of health benefits only recently uncovered. A vehicle for social interaction, it’s become a centerpiece of diverse cultural traditions around the world.  

As such, coffee commands broad global attention on many fronts – including agriculture, economics, diplomacy, culture, health and trade. With that attention come a host of diverse issues – supply and demand, quality and sustainability, tariffs and treaties, government regulation and legal challenges, market research, and science and health, to name a few. 

Clearly, it’s no small task to navigate this complex world that revolves around coffee.  Yet, it’s also a diverse, challenging and fascinating endeavor. As the foremost trade association for the U.S. industry, that’s what the National Coffee Association tackles every day. On these pages, NCA plans regularly to share some of the knowledge and experience base it has developed in support of its core purpose – to champion the well-being of the U.S. coffee industry within the context of the world coffee community.

 So, you can look to Serving Coffee to deliver a wide variety of information about the U.S. coffee industry – including news, trends, issues, statistics, legislative and regulatory issues, legal developments, and expert analysis and commentary. You’ll also find details on NCA’s ongoing efforts to serve all segments of the industry. That means a comprehensive review of the day-to-day challenges that face all sectors of the industry.

 And, today’s industry does face many challenges. However, it also enjoys some big opportunities. Volatile markets, regulatory uncertainties, shifting demographics, California legal affronts, and even climate change make it a tough time to be in the coffee business. However, strong consumer demand, ever more discerning tastes, growing awareness of quality and variety options, and single-cup and other brewing innovations make coffee purveyance a compelling endeavor.

 So, stay tuned for timely and topical information that will help you, as consumer or coffee purveyor, to understand, appreciate and savor the both the beverage and the world of coffee.

 

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