April 1, 2016
The Presidential Advisory Council on Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria met in Washington, DC on March 30-31. The Advisory Council heard reports from five working groups including: Antibiotic Stewardship; One Health Surveillance; Diagnostic Innovations; Treatment, Prevention and Control Research and Development; and International Collaboration on Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria (CARB). The council considered a report which outlines recommendations related to human medicine and government implementation of the national action plan. Recommendations address issues including:
- Phasing out antibiotic use for growth promotion in food animals
- Increased veterinary oversight
- Enhanced surveillance
- Educational outreach
- Development of alternatives
The plan is drawing some criticism from public health interest groups because they believe the effort should include specific targets for the reduction of antibiotic use in animal agriculture. More information on the Advisory Council meeting can be found here.
On March 16th, the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee held a hearing to examine the President's FY 2017 budget request for the USDA's Research, Education and Economics Mission Area and agencies. Witnesses included Under Secretary Cathy Woteki, ARS Administrator Chavonda Jacobs-Young, NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy, ERS Administrator Mary Bowman and NASS Administrator Joe Reilly. USDA testimony included several examples of high priority animal science that would be funded through the President's budget request including, antibiotic resistance, foreign animal disease and avian influenza.
Members of the subcommittee expressed general support and recognition for the importance of agricultural research. However, concerns were raised with the President's proposal to use mandatory funding to elevate investment in the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) to reach the program’s fully authorized level of $700 million. Subcommittee Chairman Robert Aderholt (R-AL) called the proposal a "budget gimmick".
Concerns also continue to be raised regarding animal care issues within ARS and the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (US-MARC). There was interest in the status of the Inspector General's report and how ARS is working with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to ensure that good animal care practices are being used across the agency. More information on the hearing, including witness testimony, can be found here.
The Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee has yet to hold a hearing specific to agricultural research, but Secretary Vilsack did highlight the importance of research during in his testimony to the subcommittee during an overall USDA budget hearing held on March 9th. A copy of his testimony can be found here.
On March 9th, the Pew Charitable Trusts released a report criticizing the Food Safety Inspection Service’s (FSIS) implementation of the National Residue Program (NRP). The NRP is a testing program to designed to control residues of drug, pesticide and environmental contaminants in meat, poultry and egg products.
The Pew Charitable Trusts evaluated the process by which the NRP tests for veterinary drugs and other chemical compounds as part of its larger efforts to determine risks in the U.S. meat and poultry supply. This study focused on whether the NRP is monitoring high priority compounds, whether changes need to be made to the monitoring process and how the system incorporates new scientific evidence and address emerging hazards. According to the report, there are major deficiencies in data transparency and the quality of reporting on the decision-making processes underlying compound selection, the documentation of the sampling plans, and the reporting of sampling results. The study also raises concerns about the NRP’s ability to effectively monitor or respond to emerging risks.
A full copy of the report and its recommendations can be found by clicking here.
On March 17th, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the publication of a final rule designed to further reduce the potential risk of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also known as “mad cow disease,” in human food. The final rule provides definitions for prohibited cattle materials and prohibits their use in human food, dietary supplements, and cosmetics, to address the potential risk of BSE. These materials include:
- Specified risk materials (SRMs ): brain, skull, eyes, trigeminal ganglia, spinal cord, vertebral column (excluding the vertebrae of the tail, the transverse processes of the thoracic and lumbar vertebrae, and the wings of the sacrum), and dorsal root ganglia (DRG) of cattle 30 months of age and older, and the tonsils and distal ileum of the small intestine from all cattle.
- The small intestine from all cattle unless the distal ileum has been properly removed,
- Material from nonambulatory disabled cattle,
- Material from cattle not inspected and passed, or mechanically separated (MS) (Beef).
A copy of the final rule can be found here.
On March 18th, the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) announced a proposed rule that would consolidate and streamline existing regulations for meat and poultry products. The intention of the rule is to eliminate redundant trichinae control requirements for pork and pork products and consolidate regulations for thermally processed, commercially sterile meat and poultry products. Currently, facilities are required to administer prescribed treatment of pork products for trichinae, in addition to implementing a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) plan. Under the proposed rule, the separate trichinae requirements would be eliminated and facilities would address trichinae and other food safety issues through HACCP. FSIS has also posted draft guidance for industry that can be found here.
On March 22nd, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) announced that it has provisionally named 13 people to serve on a committee to study the "Future Biotechnology Products and Opportunities to Enhance Capabilities of the Biotechnology Regulatory System". The study is designed to answer the following questions:
"What will the likely future products of biotechnology be over the next 5-10 years?"
"What scientific capabilities, tools, and/or expertise may be needed by the regulatory agencies to ensure they make efficient and sound evaluations of the likely future products of biotechnology?"
According to the Statement of Task, the committee will:
- Describe the major advances and the potential new types of biotechnology products likely to emerge over the next 5-10 years.
- Describe the existing risk analysis system for biotechnology products including, but perhaps not limited to, risk analyses developed and used by EPA, USDA, and FDA, and describe each agency’s authorities as they pertain to the products of biotechnology.
- Determine whether potential future products could pose different types of risks relative to existing products and organisms. Where appropriate, identify areas in which the risks or lack of risks relating to the products of biotechnology are well understood.
- Indicate what scientific capabilities, tools, and expertise may be useful to the regulatory agencies to support oversight of potential future products of biotechnology.
The committee is scheduled to hold its first meeting on April 18th. More information on the study can be found here.