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New global food regulations: stirring the pot.

Awareness of food safety continues to rise. This month alone, three controversies involving food testing made headlines. In India, a report by the Center for Science and Environment of high levels of pesticides in CocaCola and Pepsi soft drinks prompted seven of the country's states to partially ban the sale of the products in schools and hospitals. Following the discovery by Bayer CropScience of traces of an unapproved genetically modified strain of long-grain rice in commercial supplies, Japan suspended US imports of long-grain rice, while the EU will now require testing of all imports of long-grain rice for the strain. And earlier this month, two beverage companies, In Zone Brands and TalkingRain Beverage, settled lawsuits over the presence of the carcinogen benzene in their products. Suits against other carbonated beverage companies are pending.

These events underscore the critical role of food testing for consumer health, global trade and the food and beverage industry. Such events can also be expected to accelerate efforts to create food safety standards in developing nations and to update and harmonize such standards in developed regions. As the table on this page shows, a number of new food safety standards and laws have been instituted or proposed this year. Such activities, as well as increased global trade, the discovery of new contaminants and lower contaminant limits will continue to increase demand for testing. In this article, IBO reviews some of the major food safety legislation and standards that have been or are expected to be instituted this year.

The European Union has been spearheading efforts for regional harmonization and for bringing food safety testing standards consistent with the recommendations of international food standards organization such as the Codex Alimentarius Commission (Codex). A vote earlier this year by the European Parliament has set the stage for the adoption this fall of harmonized EU regulations for health and nutritional claims on food products. The legislation will create a list of approved nutritional claims based on definitions that specify set thresholds for certain ingredients. For example, food labeled "low fat" cannot contain more than 3 grams of fat per 100 grams of solids. New claims will require approval by the European Commission and EU members based on the opinion of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

Also this spring, the European Parliament approved legislation that would unify EU members' rules for the addition of vitamins, minerals and other substances to foods. The law would create a list of approved vitamins and minerals. Additions to the list would require approval by the European Commission and members states based on an evaluation by the EFSA. The legislation would also set maximum and minimum levels for such substances in food based on the opinion of the EFSA. These levels are expected to be set within two years. New labeling requirements for fortified foods would also go into effect.

And last month, the EU voted to move forward legislation to harmonize EU members' regulation covering food additives, food enzymes and flavorings (see IBO 8/15/06). Already this year, the EU has set maximum levels for dioxins and PCBs in food and feed, which will take effect in November, as well as for fusarium toxins in cereals and cereal-based foods, which took effect in July. In addition, an EU directive requires member states to write into national laws new maximum levels for nitrates and nitrites in meat by February 2008.

Another focus of EU food legislation has been the harmonization of hygiene regulations. Starting in January, four new regulations went into effect. The Regulation on Food Hygiene sets forth rules for the production, process and distribution of "foodstuffs" and mandates the adoption of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point, or HACCP, principles. Other regulations cover the hygiene and control of foods of animal origin, such as eggs, meat and fish, as well as animal health.

In May, Japan's latest revision to its laws for agricultural chemicals went into effect. The legislation sets new maximum residue limits for pesticides, veterinary drugs and feed additives found in food. According to the USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service, the law also establishes purity and compositional tests for newly designated additives and is designed to harmonize purity tests with international standards. As the USDA points out, the new law will result in the same number of samples as prior to May being tested for more types of residue. However, a result showing that a product exceeds the MRL results in increased testing of the product from the violating country. China blamed the new rules for an 18% decrease in agricultural exports to Japan in July. Japan is China's largest market for agricultural exports.

Earlier this summer, India's parliament passed the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, which consolidates the country's existing food regulations and establishes the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India. Enforcement would be carried out by the country's 28 states. Although many of the details regarding the bill are yet to be determined, such as whether the Ministry of Food Processing Industries or the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare will control the Authority, the law was signed by India's president on August 24. The Indian market for processed and unprocessed foods is estimated to be worth more than $150 billion, with sales of processed foods growing 15% annually. According to the World Trade Organization, India exported $8.7 billion of food and $8.6 billion of agricultural products in 2004. Imports of agricultural products totaled $7.3 billion, while food imports were valued at $4.4 billion in 2004.
New Food Standards and Legislation, 2006

 Organization Food Product Details
Standards
 ISO Genetically Specifies
 modified identification
 organisms and quantification
 methods for
 GMOs in foods

 Codex Lead in fish Sets maximum level
 of 0.3 mg/kg

 Codex Cadmium in Sets maximum level
 polished rice of 0.4 mg/kg

 Codex Cadmium in Sets maximum
 marine bivalve level of 2 mg/kg
 mollusks,
 excluding
 oxysters and
 scallops, and
 cephalopods
 without viscera

Legislation

Country/Region Organization Food Product

Europe European Enzymes Harmonizes EU
 Commission rules for
 evaluation, approval
 and control of
 enzymes

Europe European Additives Simplifies and
 Commission designs common EU
 approval process

Europe European Flavorings Updated
 Commission

Europe European Fortified Harmonizes EU
 Commission Foods countries' rules on
 the addition of
 vitamins, minerals
 and other substances
 to food by
 establishing a
 positive list,
 labeling criteria,
 and minimum and
 maximum levels.

India All Consolidates
 existing laws and
 establishes the
 Food Safety and
 Standards Authority
 of India

Japan Ministry of Agricultural Maximum residue
 Health, Labor chemical levels for 758
 and Welfare residues substances
 and a uniform limit
 of 0.01 ppm for
 chemicals for which
 MRLs are not
 specified
COPYRIGHT 2006 Strategic Directions International Inc. (SDI)
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2006 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Instrument Business Outlook
Date:Aug 31, 2006
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