Food Politics

by Marion Nestle
Sep 18 2017

FDA wants comments on guidance for pre-DSHEA dietary ingredients

The FDA is taking comments about developing a list of dietary supplement ingredients in safe use before Congress passed the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994.

It announced a public meeting for October 3 ton this issue.

The FDA also announced that it is accepting public comments on its draft guidance. on New Dietary Ingredients (NDIs).

Here are the FDA documents:

What this is about

A timeline may help:

  • 1994: Congress passed the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act which essentially deregulated dietary supplements.
  • It did, however, require marketers of “New Dietary Ingredients (NDIs)” to submit a premarket notification to the FDA at least 75 days before introducing it—unless the ingredient had a history of safe use before that date.
  • 1997: FDA issues regulations for NDIs
  • 2011 (January): The Food Safety Modernization Act passes.  This required the FDA to clarify when an ingredient is considered NDI.
  • 2011 (July):  FDA publishes draft guidance
  • 2017 (September):  FDA issues draft guidance for comment

As the FDA explains, one purpose of this guidance is to improve compliance with the NDI notification requirement.

In 2012, FDA estimated that the number of dietary supplements on the market was 55,600 and that 5,560 new dietary supplement products come on the market each year. This is in contrast to the approximately 4,000 products that were on the market in 1994, when DSHEA was enacted.

As of December 2014, we had received and completed our evaluation of just over 750 NDI notifications since the first notification was received in 1995.

These figures, coupled with recent concern about the presence of undeclared active ingredients in products marketed as dietary supplements, highlight the importance of submitting NDI notifications as a preventive control to ensure that consumers are not exposed to unnecessary public health risks in the form of new ingredients with unknown safety profiles

The FDA also explains:

FDA’s guidance documents, including this guidance, do not establish legally enforceable responsibilities.  Instead, guidances describe our current thinking on a topic and should be viewed only as recommendations, unless specific regulatory or statutory requirements are cited.  The use of the word should in FDA guidances means that something is suggested or recommended, but not required.

How are we to interpret this?  

My take is that DSHEA is a public health disaster.  It allows supplement companies to use pretty much whatever ingredients they want and to continue doing so until there is substantial evidence for harm.

This must be an attempt by the FDA to exercise some kind of control over ingredients in supplements.  As such, the measure deserves support.

File comments by December 4; go to http://www.regulations.gov and type FDA-2017-N-4625 in the search box.

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Sep 15 2017

Weekend reading: Big Chicken

Maryn McKenna.  Big Chicken: The Incredible Story of How Antibiotics Created Modern Agriculture and Changed the Way the World Eats.  National Geographic, 2017.

Image result for big chicken mckenna

I did a blurb for this terrific book, out on September 12:

If you think raising farm animals on antibiotics is nothing to worry about, Big Chicken will change your mind in a hurry.  McKenna, a compelling writer, tells a gripping story: how antibiotics helped transform chicken-raising from backyard to industrial.  Her account of the profit-driven politics that allowed widespread antibiotic resistance should be required reading for anyone who cares about food and health, and especially for congressional representatives who have consistently failed to take action on this critical issue.

 

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Sep 14 2017

FoodNavigator-USA’s Special Edition on Kids’ Food

Food Navigator is an industry newsletter useful for keeping up with food industry interests.  In Special Editions, it collects articles on specific topics, this on on food for kids.

Special Edition: Food for kids!

Almost a third of American children aged 10-17 are dealing with overweight or obesity, and many are lacking in essential nutrients from potassium, dietary fiber and calcium, to vitamin D. So how can the food industry respond to these concerns and develop more nutritious, but appealing snacks, meals and beverages for kids? We explore innovations targeting every life stage, from a new wave of baby food brands to Paleo meat sticks for tweens.

Sep 13 2017

FDA approves “qualified health claim” for early introduction of peanuts

I was interested to see the FDA’s announcement that it “acknowledges” and will “exercise enforcement discretion” (translation: will not oppose) a qualified health claim linking the early introduction of peanuts into the diets of young children with severe eczema or egg allergies as a means to reduce their risk of peanut allergy.

Here’s the claim, which the FDA says manufacturers can use right away:

For most infants with severe eczema and/or egg allergy who are already eating solid foods, introducing foods containing ground peanuts between 4 and 10 months of age and continuing consumption may reduce the risk of developing peanut allergy by 5 years of age. FDA has determined, however, that the evidence supporting this claim is limited to one study. If your infant has severe eczema and/or egg allergy, check with your infant’s healthcare provider before feeding foods containing ground peanuts.

The FDA’s decision is based on:

But why a qualified health claim?  Whenever you see one, you know that business interests are at stake.

In this case, the claim is in response to a petition filed by Assured Bites, Inc., maker of Hello Peanut products.  Check the astonishing prices of these products and you can see why this company wanted a health claim, and why it is already advertising it.

Really, you can do this at home.  We are talking here about starting high-risk kids out—under medical supervision—with a small taste of plain, ordinary peanut butter.

The FDA allows qualified health claims because industry wants them for marketing and pressures Congress to force the FDA to allow them.

What’s wrong with qualified health claims?  The qualifications get lost in the marketing.  Parents may think Hello Peanut works better than much less expensive alternatives.

 The FDA documents

Also see

Sep 12 2017

How Big Food does politics in Washington

Big Food trade associations got a meeting at the White House to argue that the deadlines for implementing the new Nutrition Facts panel and GMO labeling need to be synchronized (translation: delayed as long as possible).

Here’s who came to the meeting with the White House Office of Management and Budget:

  • The Grocery Manufacturers Association
  • National Confectioners Association
  • Food Marketing Institute
  • International Dairy Foods Association
  • American Frozen Food Institute
  • SNAC International

We know about the meeting because the White House released a record of it.

The current compliance dates:

  • July 26, 2018 for implementing the Nutrition Facts Panel
  • July 29, 2018 for when the USDA is supposed to release rules for GMO labels, presumably starting the process of public comment and years before implementation

The meeting participants provided two handouts:

A reality check: go to your local supermarket.  Lots of food producers are already using the new Nutrition Facts Panel.

This is a consumer-unfriendly request.

We don’t need more delays.

Sep 11 2017

Alumni Profile, Berkeley Molecular and Cell Biology

It’s been a long time since I got my doctorate in molecular biology at the University of California Berkeley, so I was especially pleased to be interviewed for the Molecular & Cell Biology newsletter, the MCB Transcript.

Alumni Profile: Spring 2017

By Kirsten Mickelwait
Marion Nestle
Marion Nestle, photo credit: Bill Hayes

Marion Nestle calls herself “a long-lapsed molecular biologist.” The renowned food writer originally set her sights on a career in bench science but switched to the classroom when she found postdoc work hours too much to balance while raising two small children. After a few years of teaching, “I was assigned a nutrition course and it was like falling in love,” she remembers. “I’ve never looked back.”

The years since then have been filled with innumerable achievements. Coauthoring the 1988 Surgeon General’s Report on Nutrition and Health. Creating the field of Food Studies at New York University. Writing the seminal Food Politics (2002) and seven subsequent books. Appearing in seven documentaries, including Supersize Me (2004) and Food, Inc. (2008). In 2011, Forbes magazine listed Nestle second among “the world’s seven most powerful foodies.”

“When we started Food Studies in 1996, everyone thought we were crazy — why would anyone want to study food?” she says. “Now most American universities, and many worldwide, have some kind of food program.”

Nestle received her BS from UC Berkeley, Phi Beta Kappa, in 1959, before pursuing her PhD (molecular biology) and MPH (public health nutrition), also from Cal. She was named Public Health Hero by the School of Public Health in 2011.

“As I look back, what I learned at Berkeley was how to think critically about science,” she says. “I can read and assess nutrition research quickly, then offer opinions based on what I know within a broad scientific context — and nobody messes with me about science. I may be criticized for my opinions, but never for their scientific foundations.”

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Sep 8 2017

Weekend reading: Reinventing the (Cheese) Wheel

Bronwen and Frances Percival.  Reinventing the Wheel: Milk, Microbes, and the Fight for Real Cheese.  University of California Press, 2017.

 

 

In this book, the Percivals take a serious deep dive into the culinary history, sociology, politics, terroir, microbiology, and how-to of the making and eating of cheeses, raw and pasteurized.  Both kinds, when done right, can be delicious and safe.  This book should convince anyone that the making of wondrous cheeses is a science as well as an art.

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Sep 7 2017

TODAY! New York City school lunches FREE for ALL students

Wonderful news!

In a press release yesterday from New York City:

CHANCELLOR FARIÑA ANNOUNCES FREE SCHOOL LUNCH FOR ALL 

Starting tomorrow, lunch is free for every NYC public school student

NEW YORK — Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Public Advocate Leticia James today announced that lunch is now free for every student at every public school across New York City. Free School Lunch for All will provide over 200,000 more students with free lunch starting this school year. Last school year, 75% of students were eligible for free lunch and starting this school year, 100% of families will be eligible to receive free lunch.

New York City has sought all forms of funding for meal reimbursement and is now eligible to receive the highest reimbursement from the federal government through the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP). This federal program allows school districts to provide meals free of charge to all enrolled students.

The press release has enthusiastic quotes from just about everyone who gets credit for this (and grateful thanks to all of you), but here’s the one from Jan Poppendieck who has been advocating for this for years:

“There is no more important step the City could have taken to promote the health, academic success, and wellbeing of our children. Free school lunch for all, without stigma or bureaucratic hassle, will not only secure access to healthy school meals for all NYC students, it will enhance the entire school dining experience. Now school lunch can truly become an integral part of the school day, a social center and a learning experience, integrated with the curriculum. The CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute applauds the Mayor, the City Council, the Office of School Food and Nutrition Services, and all of the advocates in the Lunch For Learning Campaign who have worked so hard to bring us to this day,” said Jan Poppendieck, Senior Fellow, CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute and author, Free For All: Fixing School Food in America.

Her book got everyone thinking about how much free lunches make sense.  And now it’s happening!  Congratulations to all!

Image result for poppendieck free for all

 

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