Sodium, trans fat, and food dyes were on the agendas for meetings held last month with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner, Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg and some of the nation’s top public health advocates, FDA’s public calendar shows.

Food Safety News has chosen March 2010 for one of its periodic looks at who is meeting on food-related issues with top officials at FDA.  Calendars for “significant meetings held by designated FDA policy makers with persons out side the executive branch” are made available after they occur.

Schedules for both Hamburg and Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, FDA’s principal deputy commissioner, are dominated with meetings involving drugs and medical devices.  They are drawn into meetings involving food when policy and decision-making is involved.

Two meetings with Hamburg on March 1 involved many of the same participants.  The first concerned sodium and trans fat and the visitors at FDA included Michael Jacobson, (Center for Science in the Public Interest); Barry Dickinson, (American Medical Association); Stephen Havas, (American Public Health Association); Walter Willet (Harvard School of Public Health); David Schab (Columbia University); Shula Edelkind (Feingold Association) and Julie Salz Greenstein (also from CSPI).

With Hamburg in the second meeting on food dyes were Jacobson, Schab, Edelkind, and Greenstein.

It’s no secret that CSPI wants Americans to reduce their intake of both sodium and trans fat.  Jacobson, CSPI’s executive officer, has recently predicted FDA action on both subjects.  New York City in January launched a campaign to get food processors and restaurants to make dramatic reductions in their use of sodium, which is linked to high blood pressure, strokes, and heart disease.

A clue into what might have been said at the second meeting on food dyes is the involvement of Edelkind.  The Feingold Association believes in eliminating artificial coloring, flavoring, and preservatives from food out of concern for their impact on child behavior and reactions like allegeries.

In addition to the Hamburg, several FDA officials attended the meetings including Michael R. Taylor, the deputy commissioner for food.

Dr. Stephen Sundlof, director of FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition in College Park, MD, met with Bob Garfield of the American Frozen Food Institute on March 11.   Also present at the meeting were FDA staffers Felicia Billingslea and Carol Fedorchak.

The next day, on March 12, Sundlof met with Joseph Stone, Larry Kohl, and Allison Roderick, all from the Food Marketing Institute; and Brian Lynch from the Grocery Manufacturers Association to hear comments on the Reportable Food Registry and PRE Interface.  Several FDA staffers joined in the meeting.

High fructose corn syrup was on the agenda for the next meeting, also on March 12, with Sundlof and representatives of the Corn Refiners Associations.

Taylor, the deputy commissioner for food, was also meeting with industry and consumer representatives on March 12.  He and some staff joined Leslie Sarasin, (Food Marketing Institute); Will Fisher (Institute of Food Technologists); Bob Garfield (American Frozen Food Institute); Stan Hazan (NSF International); Christopher Waldrop (Consumer Federation of American); Kathy Means (Produce Marketing Association); Jennifer Weber (American Dietetic Association); Shelley Feist (Partnership for Food Safety Education); and several staffers from the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to discuss roles in food safety education.
Taylor attended a meeting on produce safety on March 15 with Bob Whitaker from the Produce Marketing Association.  Sharon Natanblut and James Gorny, FDA staffers, sat in.

On March 17, Taylor and Robert Brackett from the Grocery Manufacturers Association met to discuss FDA’s Foods Program, food safety, science and imports. More than a dozen FDA staffers were at the meeting.

Taylor, along with others from FDA and USDA, attended the Joint Food Marketing Institute in Baltimore on March 18.  He met with numerous people in the retail grocery and produce business.

The next day, on March 19, Taylor was the guest of honor at a “meet and greet Mike Taylor in his new role as Deputy Commissioner.”  Numerous industry and consumer representatives attended the gathering.

CSPI’s Caroline Smith DeWaal met with Taylor on March 22 about food safety. And Barb Kowalcyk and Tanya Roberts, both from the Center for Foodborne Illness Research and Prevention, meet with the deputy on March 23 about food safety education.