Here are some quick summary alerts on the following subjects:
- Food price projections and climate (all good news!)
- U.S. Food & Drug Agency (FDA) Inspections and GRAS Self-Approvals (uh-oh!)
- Dietary fiber can aid calcium absorption (who knew?)
Food Price Projections
All good news! Through our friends at Purdue University, we learn that the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture is predicting “bin-busting” harvests of corn and soybeans. From our friends at Food Business News (FBN) magazine (www.foodbusinessnews.com), we are alerted to the fact that the price of sugar has been plummeting, due to record high harvests. These events have unfolded as had been predicted by Drew Lerner of World Weather, Inc. at FBN’s (highly recommended!) “Annual Purchasing Seminar” in June, 2012, which pointed to fading La Niña conditions as signaling the beginning of a gradual end to the extended and extensive drought period of the past three years. Current favorable crop conditions are projected to continue into at least mid-2014. This should have a salutary effect on food prices and ease profit-margin pressures on food companies. Hopefully, this also foretells a burst in new food and beverage product innovation as raw material pressures ease for the foreseeable future.
Is More Food Scrutiny Warranted?
The U.S. Food & Drug Agency (FDA) is notoriously underfunded and understaffed and it can’t (and shouldn’t) try to be everywhere all the time. However, pressures are mounting in terms of proposed import compliance changes and GRAS self-affirmations.
The FDA presented two proposals in July to expand food safety controls on imported foods. This will require more on-site inspections of facilities that export food to the U.S. The FDA anticipates doing this through 3rd party auditors. This will be very good news for 3rd party auditors but not so good news for international food and food ingredient exporters that will now have to contend with new layers of compliance requirements under the U.S. Food Safety & Modernization Act (FSMA). The rationale for this decision is good, but it will significantly raise barriers for exporters of high-value foodstuffs to the United States. The U.S. is a net importer of high-value foods and, for some categories (e.g., seafood), is almost entirely reliant on foreign sources. Hopefully, this will not dissuade food importers from bringing new and trend-breaking foods and ingredients to our tables just because a full regulatory-compliance infrastructure is beyond their reach. (e.g., acai, quinoa, chia). Think about how this could impact the Free Trade movement, for example – added compliance requirements will require more intermediaries, not fewer.
Note: we include two such auditing experts in our BEST VANTAGE Inc. family of food industry professionals: Richard Stier and Rebeca Lopez-Garcia (Mexico). You can review their bios here: http://www.bestvantageinc.com/bvihomebio.html.
A bit more problematic is an article published in the August 7th issue of the Journal of American Medical Association [http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1725123] that alleges that the “potential” for conflicts of interest is rife in the process whereby the FDA allows “self” approval of new foods and ingredients as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS).
Unfortunately, the authors of that paper display little appreciation regarding the realities of GRAS affirmations from the perspective of government resources and capabilities. For GRAS self-affirmations of new ingredients, the government makes the suppliers do their own homework in documenting the safety of new foods and ingredients. Self-affirmed GRAS foodstuffs can be foods commonly consumed in other parts of the world or ingredient fractions refined from existing foodstuffs. The GRAS self-affirmation process has opened doors to an explosion of new food and food ingredient offerings to the benefit of the commonweal. Absent any evidence that this system has failed or is broken, tampering with the self-affirmation process can only serve to constrain and bottleneck one of the last remaining creative and dynamic sectors of our economy. So, absent of any such evidence of failure or danger to the public welfare, we say: don’t tamper with a GRAS self-affirmation process that works!
Prebiotics Aid Calcium Absorption
An endearing quality in the field of nutrition is conventional wisdom endures even as established dogma remains ever elusive. Not long ago, it was assumed that dietary fiber (specially soluble fiber) consumption interfered with essential mineral absorption.
Via the California Dairy Research Foundation (http://cdrf.org/), we learn of a Purdue University study that concluded that the consumption of 5 grams per day of prebiotic galactooligosaccharides significantly increased calcium absorption from milk in teenage girls. Obviously, if confirmed, this opens up tremendous new dairy product development opportunities to the public good.
Never, never take anything for granted in the fast-evolving field of nutrition!