Recent Outbreaks Make FDA's Draft Guidance for LM in RTE Food Timely

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Listeria monocytogenes (L. monocytogenes) is an environmental pathogen that can contaminate foods and cause a mild, non-invasive illness (listerial gastroenteritis) or a severe, invasive illness (listeriosis). Although the number of outbreaks and illnesses from this pathogen are not high compared with other pathogenic organisms, such as Salmonella, listeriosis is considered to be a significant foodborne pathogen since the illness outcome is severe and the fatality rate is high.

In light of recent notable outbreak incidents with foods such as caramel apples and ice cream, the publication of FDA’s draft guidance for L. monocytogenes in ready-to-eat (RTE) foods is timely. Control of the process environment is important to minimize potential cross contamination of RTE foods by this environmental pathogen. This draft guidance provides a comprehensive tool to help protect public health and reduce the incidence of listeriosis. The construct of the document is thorough and well laid-out. It is intended for the food manufacturer that is subject to the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and is required to follow current good manufacturing practices for human food of part 117 (CGMP – Subpart B) and/or the requirements for the hazard analysis and risk-based Preventive Controls for Human Food (PCHF) in 21 CFR 117 (PCHF).

The guidance identifies several examples of measures that could significantly minimize or prevent the contamination of RTE food with L. monocytogenes. This guidance is not intended for the food manufacturer of RTE food that receives a listericidal control measure applied in the final package or before packaging.

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A Perspective on EPA's Waters of the U.S. Regulation

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You have undoubtedly heard of the controversy concerning the regulatory redefinition of the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Department of the Army and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It relates to the extent of the jurisdiction of federal versus state regulations relating to the Clean Water Act (CWA) implementation. It is an extremely complex and convoluted legal and policy issue. The resolution might have an impact on wastewater discharges from some of your facilities, so it might be worth at least keeping track of the legal and regulatory issues, especially if the outcome might affect your business. Certainly, hundreds of state, federal and industry lawyers, judges and their staffs have been engaged in the action. It will probably be decided ultimately by the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Ag Act Advances from Judiciary Committee

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WASHINGTON -- Late on Wednesday afternoon, the House Judiciary Committee approved H.R.4092, the Agricultural Guestworker Act (AG Act) on a close 17-16 vote. The Committee’s action is just the first step in what will be a long and important legislative process. Federal legislation is needed to fully address the labor crisis afflicting agriculture and horticulture in America. Chairman Bob Goodlatte and the Committee have tackled this challenge by drafting a bill that revamps the H-2A guest worker program, which he considers dysfunctional and difficult for the business owners who rely on it.

"It is a costly, time-consuming, and flawed program," Goodlatte said in a statement. "They must expend a great deal of time and money each season in order to prove to the federal government what nearly everybody already knows to be the case: legal, dependable domestic farm labor is very hard to find."

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Growers Hope Administration Changes Water Rule

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YAKIMA, Wash. — Northwest growers should not make any changes to their water quality plans and testing while the Trump administration reviews agricultural water rules adopted by the Obama administration, says Kate Woods, vice president of the Northwest Horticultural Council in Yakima.

The Food and Drug Administration is also trying to clarify whether packing houses are farms or processors, Woods said.

The FDA announced Sept. 12 a 60-day review of a proposed rule to extend deadlines for compliance with agricultural water requirements of the Produce Safety Rule of the Food Safety Modernization Act by two to four years while the requirements are reviewed. The Produce Safety Rule was announced by the Obama administration on Nov. 27, 2015.

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Opinion: The Zero-Sum 2018 Farm Bill

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American Soybean Association (ASA) and other farm organizations have been urging Congressional leaders to provide additional funds to the Agriculture Committees so they can write a new farm bill in 2018 that responds to the difficult times farmers are facing. In the absence of outside assistance, however, the Committees and groups that support enactment of the farm bill are facing some tough decisions over the next few months. We will need the active support and participation of all farm bill sectors to get the best possible legislation during what can be described as highly uncertain times for production agriculture in the United States.

There are a lot of scenarios floating around Washington about how and when the 2018 Farm Bill will get done. Just last week, a proposal to cut spending in the farm bill was dropped during negotiations on a Budget Resolution for FY-2018. However, several bills have been introduced that would slash the crop insurance program by reducing the premium subsidy, capping indemnities, or means-testing participant income. With opponents of farm legislation on both the left and the right working together, it is essential for supporters – from farm organizations to conservation groups to the anti-hunger community – to have each other’s back.

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