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NMPF Pushes Back on FDA Over Proposed Traceability Rule

March 2, 2021

NMPF filed comments Feb. 22 urging FDA to withdraw a proposed traceability rule that identifies what foods are high-risk and would warrant additional recordkeeping requirements to improve their traceability.

FDA proposed that all cheeses other than hard cheese should be considered high-risk foods.  FDA’s risk-ranking model, under the proposal, would place “pasteurized cheese, other than hard” as the riskiest of all foods in the marketplace — even above cheese made from raw milk, a finding NMPF thought was absurd.

This questionable ranking was partly caused by FDA adding a new criterion to its risk ranking model beyond what Congress had instructed it to do in the Food Safety Modernization Act, landmark food-safety legislation that became law in 2011. FDA added consumption data to the model, which had the effect of increasing a food’s risk rating due to its popularity. NMPF stated in its comments that popularity and risk do not go hand-in-hand — nor can FDA override what Congress has directed.

The comments also took issue with the agency’s interpretation that cheese made with pasteurized milk is not a food that has been subjected to a kill step, and therefore that full recordkeeping provisions should apply. Food subjected to a kill step has significantly fewer recordkeeping requirements, according to the proposed rule.

This rule, if put into effect, would increase consumer confusion, as FDA has long told consumers to choose pasteurized cheeses over raw-milk cheeses based on food safety concerns.

NMPF reviewed comments filed by the International Dairy Foods Association and supported their filing in its comments.