Food quality

The goal of the labeling requirement is to increase consumption of domestic commodities and improve the market for U.S. producers. United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) officials appear to have consulted only with opponents of mandatory country of origin labeling before developing cost burden estimates associated with the implementation of the labeling requirements contained in the farm bill (http://enzi.senate.gov/usdaco.htm). The new

Table 12 US legislation (main points, comments) with regard to technological aspects

Title

Main points

Comments

Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) (1976)

• It establishes the EPA's toxic substances program.

• Under TSCA, manufacturers must notify EPA of their intentions to mass-produce a new chemical substance.

• TSCA also regulates polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs.

Amendment

• In 1986, TSCA was amended to incorporate the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act to address matters relating to asbestos products in public schools and other buildings.

US Regulatory Requirements for Irradiating Foods (1986)

• Legal requirements

• Safety issues (radiological, toxicological, microbiological, nutritional adequacy)

• Labeling and packaging of irradiating foods

Amendments

• 1999 (Federal Register, 64)

Food Irradiation (1999)

• Food irradiation is the process of exposing food to ionizing radiation.

• Food irradiation is a technology for controlling spoilage and eliminating food-borne pathogens, such as salmonella.

• FDA approved irradiation for the control of pathogenic microorganisms in red meats.

Food Additives Guide (2005)

• Use of food additives

• Food additives are listed according to their functional or class names

• Intolerance and food additives

Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (2005)

• Duties of the center for postmarket drug evaluation and research

• Publication of progress reports and completed studies

Source: Adapted from [2] with permission from Blackwell Publishing.

Source: Adapted from [2] with permission from Blackwell Publishing.

US rules require that the FDA conducts inspections to ensure that food manufacturers are complying with practices to reduce or eliminate cross-contact of a food with any major food allergens that are not intentional ingredients of the food (http://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/news/ng.asp7n = 58569-food-label-ing-must). Most mandatory labeling legislation around the world has either not yet been fully implemented, or has been implemented in combination with informal moratoria on genetically engineered (GE) foods — the result being that few, if any, GE foods actually carry a label yet. GE food labels are only mandated if the food has any known nutritional difference or food safety risk (including increased toxicity or likelihood of causing allergies; http://www. geo-pie.cornell.edu/issues/intllabeling.html).

3.3.1 Labeling and packaging legislation

Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (1967) specifies that packages and their labels should enable consumers to obtain accurate information as to the quantity of the contents and should facilitate value comparisons. Therefore, it is hereby declared to be the policy of the Congress to assist consumers and manufacturers in reaching these goals in the marketing of consumer goods. The separate label statement of net quantity of contents appearing upon or affixed to any package (i) if on a package labeled in terms of weight, shall be expressed in pounds, with any remainder in terms of ounces or common or decimal fractions of the pound; or in the case of liquid measure, in the largest whole unit (quarts, quarts and pints, or pints, as appropriate) with any remainder in terms of fluid ounces or common or decimal fractions of the pint or quart, (ii) if on a random package, may be expressed in terms of pounds and decimal fractions of the pound carried out to not more than three decimal places and is not required to, but may, include a statement in terms of the SI metric system carried out to not more than three decimal places, (iii) if on a package labeled in terms of linear measure, shall be expressed in terms of the largest whole unit (yards, yards and feet, or feet, as appropriate) with any remainder in terms of inches or common or decimal fractions of the foot or yard and (iv) if on a package labeled in terms of measure of area, shall be expressed in terms of the largest whole square unit (square yards, square yards and square feet, or square feet, as appropriate) with any remainder in terms of square inches or common or decimal fractions of the square foot or square yard. The term ''label'' means any written, printed, or graphic matter affixed to any consumer commodity or affixed to or appearing upon a package containing any consumer commodity.

Biotech Food Labeling illustrates three observations made in the theory section of this report. First, to establish successful mandatory labeling requirements, the government must provide or arrange for standards, testing, certification and enforcement. Second, labeling of complex, unclear information will not reduce information and search costs. Third, labeling is not the best policy tool for redressing externalities (even theoretical externalities). Labeling requirements are established by USDA for meat and poultry and by FDA for all other food products. Both agencies require labeling of a biotech food if the food's composition differs significantly from that of its conventional counterpart. Most biotech foods on the market have been found to be essentially equivalent to their conventional counterparts, hence, most biotech foods are unlabeled. As an alternative to segregation, processors could choose to reformulate their products to use ingredients from crops that are exclusively non-biotech, thus minimizing the risk of inadvertently using a biotech variety. For example, corn emulsifiers could be replaced with rice emulsifiers. The cost of any of these options varies greatly depending on the flexibility of the production and marketing systems, the tolerance level for biotech content, the volume of biotech and non-biotech commodities and products processed by the system, and the likelihood of achieving economies of scale.

Following Biotech Labeling Guidance (2001) in comments submitted to the FDA, the National Food Processors Association has commended FDA for its draft guidance on voluntary labeling for foods that have or have not been derived through biotechnology. Consumers will benefit only if voluntary biotechnology labeling conforms to standards assuring the information is truthful and not misleading. In this regard, the FDA has provided appropriate and much needed guidance to the food industry through its authority under the misbranding provisions of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act.

According to Food Labeling (2004) GE food is becoming the rule, rather than the exception, on American grocery-store shelves. By some estimates, two-thirds or more of processed foods now contain ingredients derived from GE corn and soy crops. Unlike the old botanical roulette involved in combining plants to see what traits emerge in their hybrids, genetic engineering is precise. Single traits of one species are spliced into another. The titles and main points of the US legislation about labeling and packaging are summarized in Table 13.

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