July 6, 2011
The Natural Products Associations (NPA) has announced the support of the Hatch-Paulsen Bill expanding health savings account (HSA) and flexible spending account (FSA) coverage to dietary supplements.
“The Natural Products Association supports legislation introduced in Congress by Senator Orrin Hatch and Representative Erik Paulsen that would allow Americans to use their Health Spending Account and Flex Spending Arrangement dollars on dietary supplements and meal replacement products,” said John Gay, Natural Products Association (NPA) executive director and CEO, in a statement about the “Family and Retirement Health Investment Act of 2011,” recently introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and in the U.S. House by Representative Erik Paulsen (R-MN). “We believe this would be an important step in promoting preventative health and wellness, and reducing overall health care costs.
“Current law allows these dollars to be spent on prescription drugs but not supplements,” continued Gay. “NPA supports increased access to supplements as part of our health care system so that it is truly a health care system and not simply a disease treatment system. Letting HSA and FSA funds apply to supplements would bring us closer to that goal. In the long run, wider use of supplements can lead to substantial health care savings. For example, studies have shown that an increase in omega-3 fatty acids can reduce coronary heart disease among people age 65 or older, saving an estimated $3.1 billion. By establishing tax deductibility for specific products through HSAs and FSAs, the legislation encourages preventative care and promotes public health.”
For more information, visit www.npainfo.org.
The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) said that it opposes S. 1310, the Dietary Supplement Labeling Act of 2011, introduced by Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL).
In a statement from CRN, President and CEO Steve Mister said that CRN opposes the Dietary Supplement Labeling Act of 2011 “because it is a misguided bill that doesn’t address the concerns raised by Senator Durbin, but instead creates more bureaucracy for an already resource-challenged agency and more red tape and costs for industry while doing nothing to further protect consumers from his concerns. Instead of urging FDA to use its current enforcement authority to isolate and punish those companies that are not following the law, this bill serves to punish all responsible companies with its overreaching mandates.
“The bill contains duplicative requirements that already exist under current law that gives FDA the proper legal authority to take action to protect consumers and maintain safety standards,” continued Mister. “FDA needs to continue working toward becoming a more efficient steward of its resources, and we continuously call on the agency to use its power under the law. We urge Senator Durbin to join us in that effort.”
Durbin said he is introducing the Dietary Supplement Labeling Act to improve the information available to consumers, and to curb the prevalence of drinks and foods that are masquerading as dietary supplements as a means of avoiding review and regulation by the FDA.
Mister added that the FDA is an under-funded agency that is already struggling to accomplish everything currently on its plate. “Further, in the midst of an economic downturn and a robust debate on the state of health in America, Senator Durbin along with many of his colleagues, have correctly indicated that well-care instead of sick-care is the direction that America must move towards in seeking to lower health care related expenses and burdens. This legislation only removes us from that path by placing undue hurdles in front of legitimate manufacturers, suppliers and sellers of dietary supplements that promote good health and wellness.”
Mister said that he hopes that FDA will be given the resources it needs to enforce the laws already on the books. “FDA must prioritize its enforcement efforts, address those companies that flout the law and be held accountable for the laws and regulations it is already expected to enforce. CRN has worked with Senator Durbin in the past to pass legislation that allows consumers to safely access products that can help to promote a healthier lifestyle, and we hope to be able to find future common ground with the Senator. But not with this bill.”
For more information, visit www.crnusa.org.
Canada’s Organic Products Regulations were fully enforced on June 30; two years after the regulations became law in 2009. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has followed a two-year Stream of Commerce and Enforcement Policy, allowing operators time to become fully compliant with the regulations. During this “phase-in” period, the CFIA managed minor non-compliances through notification and education, requiring correction within reasonable timelines.
“Full compliance with all provisions of the Organic Products Regulations is now mandatory. The Stream of Commerce policy was a great help for organic operators working to bring their documentation and labeling into compliance,” said Matthew Holmes, executive director of the Canada Organic Trade Association. “Now products labeled as ‘organic’ in Canada and subject to the regulations must be certified by a CFIA-accredited certification body, and all organic product labels must carry the name of the certifier.”
The CFIA consulted with the organic sector to build upon the pre-existing industry self-regulated standards. The 2009 regulations made Canada’s organic standards mandatory for both domestic and imported products, and launched the now familiar “Biologique Canada Organic” logo, which allows consumers to identify products that meet Canada’s organic requirements. The CFIA oversees and enforces the organic certification system, as well as organic claims in the marketplace. Now in full effect, the Organic Products Regulations have leveled the playing field and given both domestic and foreign consumers confidence in the organic label.
In addition to providing consumers with confidence at home, the Canadian organic system is trusted by two major trading partners: the U.S. and Europe. In 2009, Canada and the U.S. announced the world’s first organic equivalency agreement, which allows for trade of organic products between the two countries. In June 2011, the European Union (EU) added Canada to its “third country list,” recognizing Canadian organic products and certification as valid for import into the EU.
For more information, visit www.ota.com.
Grocery Shopping Network (GSN) has announced the launch of a new mobile apps program for Sunflower Farmers Market. This new mobile shopping program is compatible with iPhone and Android smart phones and allows shoppers to view circular specials, in-store specials, recipes, and mobile offers based on this week’s deals from their mobile smart phone.
“This new mobile shopping solution will allow our shoppers to leverage the same great tools featured online on their mobile smart phone. With value driven content provided by Grocery Shopping Network, our shoppers will be able to streamline the shopping process while maintaining their busy schedules,” said Steve Black, vice president of marketing and IT at Sunflower Farmers Market. “We are committed to providing a shopping experience that is flexible to the changing needs of our shoppers.”
Sunflower’s new mobile program provides shoppers with access to all of the great tools offered online through their mobile smart phone, including a completely integrated mobile circular with built-in search capabilities; department and brand filtering; the ability to add items manually as well as from the circular or recipe portal; sharing capabilities; access to the searchable recipe portal complete with all recipe details and the recipe of the day; a store map, location finder and the ability to save a favorite store; as well as contact information, profile syncing and easy shopping list management. The shoppers can also make a list online and immediately access a saved list on their smart phone as well as making a list on their phone and seeing it online with GSN’s profile synchronization.
For more information, visit www.sunflowermarkets.com.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced on July 1 that it has issued draft guidance clarifying agency expectations on new dietary ingredients, as required by the new Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).
Dietary supplement manufacturers are required to notify the FDA in advance when they intend to add a new dietary ingredient to their products, except in certain situations when the ingredient has been part of the food supply and has not been chemically altered for use in supplements. The notifications must identify the new dietary ingredient and be accompanied by evidence on its safety. The draft guidance is intended to inform and assist manufacturers, distributors and others in deciding when a pre-market safety notification for a dietary supplement containing a new dietary ingredient is necessary and in preparing pre-market safety notifications.
FSMA requires FDA to undertake many actions in strict time frames, in order to build a new food safety system based on prevention. FSMA required the FDA to complete both tasks on or before July 3, 2011, or within 180 days of the signing of FSMA into law.
At this stage, the guidance is only for comments, and it does not update current legislation. Although FDA allows comment on the guidance at any time, to ensure the agency considers comments before it begins work on the final version of the guidance, industry members need to submit either electronic or written comments on the draft guidance within 90 days of publication in the Federal Register of the notice announcing the availability of the draft guidance.
FDA was scheduled to release the guidance on Tuesday, July 5, but released it four days earlier.
For more information, visit www.fda.gov.
Building on a growing collection of quality standards for ingredients of interest and importance to the food industry—including infant formula ingredients, functional food ingredients, sweeteners and food colorings—new specifications are being proposed in these categories. These standards are available as a resource to manufacturers and suppliers to help ensure the identity, quality and purity of ingredients used in finished foods—both domestically and internationally.
The Food Chemicals Codex (FCC) includes standards for a full range of ingredients used in foods, including colorings, flavorings, nutrients, preservatives, emulsifiers and thickeners, among others. The compendium accommodates any food ingredient or additive that can be legally added to food in the U.S. or elsewhere, making it a truly international compendium. The FCC Forum is the free-access online vehicle through which the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP)—the organization that publishes the FCC—accepts comments on proposed FCC standards. Food manufacturers and all other interested parties are invited to provide feedback on the latest proposed standards available on the FCC Forum during a 90-day comment period, which closes September 30, 2011. The FCC Forum is accessible at www.usp.org/fcc/fccForum.html.
“What the industry will see in this latest FCC Forum is a dedicated effort to continue to develop standards for categories of ingredients that have broad impact,” said James Griffiths, PhD, vice president of food and dietary supplement standards for USP.