April 26/Washington/Hogan Lovells US LLP -- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently announced its finalized Strategic Priorities for 2011-2015. The report outlines the agency’s strategic plans for the next five years, establishing guiding principles to direct the agency’s actions, cross-cutting strategic priorities that apply across the agency’s many program areas, and specific goals for each program area. This memorandum summarizes FDA’s strategic priorities as they relate to the food industry.

FDA’s final set of strategic priorities closely mirrors its draft priorities issued last fall, with the notable exception that FDA’s front-of-package labeling initiative was removed from the final list and replaced with a plan to update the Nutrition Facts Panel. The priorities also align well with the agency’s new authority and responsibilities under the Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA).


Agency-wide Strategic Priorities

The report establishes a number of agency-wide strategic priorities, which the agency describes as cross-cutting strategic priorities. Several priorities will affect food regulations:

• Advancing regulatory science and innovation, which entails using new technologies to regulate more effectively,

• Strengthening the safety and integrity of the global supply chain, focusing on preventing threats rather than only responding to emergencies, and

• Strengthening compliance and enforcement activities to support public health, using when necessary criminal prosecutions and the agency’s new enforcement powers under the FSMA.


Food Program Strategic Goals

The agency has two primary goals for its regulation of food: reducing adverse health effects and death from food, and reducing the rates of chronic diseases associated with food by providing effective nutrition information.


Food Safety

FDA plans to adopt a farm-to-table approach to protecting the food supply, emphasizing preventing rather than merely reacting to food safety incidents. FDA plans to pursue a scientific, risk-based approach to food safety, with three long-term objectives:

• Establishing standards for science-based preventive controls,

• Achieving high rates of foreign and domestic compliance with preventive control standards, and

• Ensuring adequate scientific capacity to support risk-based public health decision making.

FDA notes that several features of the FSMA will enhance its ability to pursue its food-safety objections: preventive controls, risk-based inspection and compliance tools, stronger imported food oversight, and enhanced partnerships with state and local regulators.


Nutrition and Diet

FDA has two primary goals for promoting healthy dietary practices:

• Increasing the availability of nutritious new food products, and

• Providing information to promote healthy diets and to reduce the chance of chronic diseases by strengthening food labeling to promote healthful dietary practices.

Specifically, FDA believes that implementing restaurant menu and vending machine labeling regulations, updating the Nutrition Facts Panel, and encouraging the reduction of sodium in processed foods will promote more healthy dietary practices. Notably, FDA’s final report does not discuss its front of package labeling initiative, which was mentioned in the draft report.

From the April 27, 2011, Prepared Foods' Daily News.