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Article: Food &Ag Briefing 21 July

21 July 2020

Health and welfare advocates in the US stepped up pressure at the beginning of last week (July 13) on federal regulators and the food industry to limit children's exposure to online advertising of junk food.

With 51 million American students being forced by the COVID-19 pandemic to tune in for classes online, a coalition of 23 consumer, public health, civil rights and academic groups and organizations, called on the USDA to clarify in a new guidance the coverage of the agency's 2016 local wellness policy that protects children from unhealthy advertising at school.

Also on Monday, and with a four-month delay caused by COVID-19, FDA officials released the agency's much-anticipated plan called a New Era of Smarter Food Safety - a broad strategy that maps out how FDA will use new technology and updated tools and approaches to modernize food safety over the coming decade.

Among other objectives, the strategy includes plans to promote adoption of end-to-end traceability throughout the food system, a move that will begin with implementation of the long-delayed Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) mandate for FDA to designate high-risk foods for which additional record-keeping requirements are necessary to protect public health.

The US House of Representative's Energy and Commerce Committee approved legislation on Wednesday (July 15) that would add sesame to the "Big Eight" food allergen list in a move to speed past the FDA's lengthy regulatory process.

The panel passed 30 bills during the virtual markup, including the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education, and Research Act (FASTER) of 2019 (H.R. 2117). The bill would add sesame to the list of major allergens and allow FDA to add other major allergens, based on the prevalence and severity of allergic reactions to the food ingredient.

On Thursday (July 16), a senior EU judge advised the European Court of Justice (ECJ) that the Brussels Capital Region should be allowed to mount a legal challenge to the European Commission's decision to renew the authorisation of the herbicide glyphosate.

Advocate General, Michal Bobek, advised the ECJ that in an upcoming judgement it should overturn a February 2019 ruling from its lower General Court dismissing the case from the regional government on grounds that it did not have a direct concern and only member states could challenge Commission decisions to renew active ingredient authorisations.

In a letter to EU lawmakers last week, food and drink associations as well as packaging groups stressed the taxes were "not the most efficient way" to achieve the goal of making all packaging reusable or recyclable by 2030.

The policy objective is set out under the European Green Deal and a number of EU Member States have already introduced or are considering the introduction of taxation systems on certain packaging materials and applications.

In the UK, the government called for a system of mutual recognition of rules and standards among the United Kingdom's four component nations post-Brexit, in order to maintain the integrity of the UK's 'internal market' as from next year.

But the proposals - set out in a White Paper tabled on Thursday (16 July) - provoked outrage in Wales and Scotland, which have accused London of effectively seeking to strip away their existing powers over issues such as food labelling and animal welfare.

Finally, French competition authorities handed out EUR93 million in fines to twelve firms for engaging in cartel activity to manipulate the market for ham and cold cuts.

The biggest fines were applied to Cooperl Arc Atlantique, France's leading charcuterie firm, and Les Mousquetaires, a distribution group (Intermarché, Netto, Bricomarché) that also manufactures its own brands. These two companes were fined EUR35.53 million and EUR31.75 million respectively.

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