US dairy groups ask FDA not to use same criteria for dairy and shellfish

By Jim Cornall contact

- Last updated on GMT

USDEC and NMPF say they are looking to work with the FDA to pursue a dairy model that will uphold US food safety standards while facilitating the resolution of barriers to US exports. Pic: ©Getty Images/steverts
USDEC and NMPF say they are looking to work with the FDA to pursue a dairy model that will uphold US food safety standards while facilitating the resolution of barriers to US exports. Pic: ©Getty Images/steverts

Related tags: Fda, Milk

US dairy producers and manufacturers have offered to collaborate with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to continue fostering dairy food safety and job growth, as the agency develops procedures for regulating imported foods, including shellfish and dairy.

The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) have asked for further engagement with the FDA on ways to facilitate US dairy exports, while expressing concerns that the manner in which the US government is handling shellfish trade would pose a deep concern if that same process were applied to the trade of dairy foods.

At issue is the FDA’s determination of whether a foreign country has “equivalent” food safety parameters as the US. Equivalence is a process by which FDA can recognize other countries’ food safety measures as meeting an equivalent level of protection as provided by US food safety measures, such as those mandated by the Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference or the National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments (NCIMS).

Differences needed

In a letter sent today to FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb, NMPF and USDEC praised the commissioner’s commitment to “unlock economic opportunity… by creating new market access”. It also outlined various ways in which the agency’s actions on dairy equivalence would need to differ dramatically from the process followed for establishing bilateral shellfish equivalency to safeguard US consumers, while addressing job-constraining foreign barriers to US dairy products.

This spring, the FDA published a notice in the Federal Register soliciting comments on its proposed finding that the EU’s food safety system for certain raw shellfish is equivalent to that in the US. The notice represented the first time the agency has issued an equivalence determination.

NMPF and USDEC filed detailed comments analyzing the notice’s potential implications for the US dairy industry as the FDA continues its ongoing Grade “A” dairy equivalence assessments of New Zealand, the European Union and Canada.

Avoiding inequality

NMPF president and CEO Jim Mulhern said, “While we recognize that the US government has international obligations to be responsive to trading partners’ equivalency requests while still upholding high US food safety standards, our trading partners likewise have their own obligations to not impose unduly burdensome or trade-distorting measures on US exports.

“As part of the administration’s efforts to expand the US economy and grow American jobs, FDA has a responsibility to safeguard our consumers while also working in tandem with our trade agencies to tear down foreign barriers to USproducts,”​ Mulhern added.

USDEC’s chief operating officer, Matt McKnight, said a dairy export deal that allowed only two states to access a foreign market, as is the case under the shellfish proposal, would create unacceptable commercial inequities in the dairy industry.

“Our exporters face a lot of roadblocks around the world, particularly in the EU market. We look forward to working with the FDA to fully address those barriers and ensure that all US dairy products from all US states have an equal opportunity to benefit from the agency’s work to tackle countries’ unjustified or overly burdensome requirements on American-made products,”​ McKnight said.

The two organizations said they are looking to work in partnership with the FDA to pursue a dairy model that will successfully uphold US food safety standards while facilitating the resolution of barriers to US exports.

Related topics: Regulation & Safety, Dairy Health Check

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