Putting it in action
Congress designated USDA to interpret NFBD, a task the department handed to its Agricultural Marketing Service. The service has two years to write the regulations, with an implementation date no earlier than one year later for on-package labeling. This work is tracked on a USDA website, www.ams.usda.gov.
On Aug. 1, USDA sent preemption letters to the governors of all US states, plus Guam and the Virgin Islands. In October, the working group requested proposals to study electronic or digital link disclosure technologies.
Normally, the regulatory process runs on rails, with predictable stops for public comment periods, circulation of preliminary rules, more comments and then publication of final rules. The process then provides another one-to-three-year period for compliance by the larger companies and a year or two more for medium and small businesses. Thus, the regulatory process would not require industry compliance much before mid-2019.
USDA was expected to publish an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking in November, but this is still on hold, according to Lee Sanders, the American Bakers Association’s senior vice-president of government relations and public affairs. “It is not likely to be released for comment until the USDA secretary is confirmed,” she said. As of press time, the Senate Agriculture Committee had yet to set a hearing date for Sonny Purdue, the proposed candidate.
Ms. Sanders also noted that the law requires the rule to be finished by July 29, 2018. “This is three days after the revised Nutrition Facts Panel rule is supposed to become effective, unless there is an extension,” she said.
In a somewhat related move, three notices published in the Federal Register of Jan. 19 show FDA and USDA digging into modernizing GMO regulations. They differentiate between older genetic engineering techniques and newer gene-editing methods related to animals and plants for food.
Learn how the US arrived at mandatory GMO labeling in the next segment.