By: Nicole Muise-Kielkucki
The IFT Policy Impact Conference covered a wide range of topics, from the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and GMO labeling in the United States, to reviewing industry standards and navigating international trade agreements.
The highlight of the event for me was the first presentation, 2012 Food Policy in Review, presented by Fred Degnan, Partner at the King & Spalding firm. Mr. Degnan’s expertise and insight into the year in review was compounded by his previous term working in the FDA’s Office of the Chief Counsel, as both Associate Chief Counsel for Foods, and for Enforcement.
In his presentation, Mr. Degnan moved systematically through 2012, highlighting one big issue from each month out of the year. Among his top 12 picks were: the consumer outcry over BPA in plastics and subsequent FDA denial of a ban of BPA in packaging; the still ongoing and unresolved AquaAdvantage Salmon Environmental Assessment and FDA approval; the September arsenic scare and pending FDA assurance to the public; and the birthday of the iconic Oreo, a tribute to his seven year old granddaughter (March 2012 marked the Oreo’s 100th Anniversary).
Mr. Degnan’s picks for the top three main policy issues of 2012 were telling. They included the one-year delay of FSMA implementation, changes to FDA’s oversight and transparency of the Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) program, and the surge of consumer driven class-action suits filed at the state level in 2012. The latter includes cases like the lawsuit brought against Kellogs/Kashi for labeling their products as “natural,” and against Splenda for claiming that their product contained B vitamins and antioxidants that are “essential for maintaining a healthy metabolism” and losing weight.
It is important as students, who will someday soon work within the food industry, to reflect on policy issues of the past as we move forward. Do you identify with Mr. Degnan’s assessment of the biggest food policy issues in 2012 mentioned here? Why or why not?
What would have been your top three, if you had made the list? And as a community of young food industry specialists, do you think that these issues been resolved? Or will we likely see more of the same as we move into 2013 and beyond?
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