Federal food safety agencies were not planning on drafting much in the way of new regulations in 2017, which might turn out to be a lucky stroke.

The only new regulations now on the horizon that are remotely related to food safety will implement the GMO labeling scheme adopted by Congress this past year. It gives the U.S. Department of Agriculture until July 2018 to finish the job. That timing may be fortunate.

newregulation_406x250A 12-page “interim guidance” memo issued Feb. 2 by Dominic J. Mancini, acting administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), says one of President Donald Trump’s executive orders calls upon agencies to cut two existing regulations for every new one between Jan. 20 and Sept. 30 this year. OIRA is associated with the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

The Mancini memo orders all federal agencies planning any significant regulatory action prior to Sept. 30 to identify two existing regulatory actions to propose for elimination — and combined they must fully offset the total incremental cost of the new regulatory action.

“The executive order is sprinkled with the phrase ‘unless required by law,’ which is perhaps an acknowledgement that not all regulations can be eliminated with a replacement,” said Lisa Soronen, executive director of the State and Local Legal Center at the National Conference of State Legislatures. Her analysis of the “Legal Implications of Trump’s 2-for-1 Regulations Order” is found on the NCSL Blog.

Removing existing regulations requires federal agencies to go through the same ponderous process required for writing new ones, including soliciting and responding to comments from the public. Consequently, the 2-for-1 order may not be as efficient a regulation killer as another being embraced by Congress.

It’s  the “Congressional Review Act,” which allows Congress to repeal regulations it does not like so long as the president signs off on what is to be killed. A short time frame limits the use of the Congressional Review Act, but right now there are as many as 50 Obama-era regulations that could be wiped from the books using it.

Safe from such action, however, are the new rules enacted in 2016 by the Food and Drug Administration for the expressed purpose of implementing the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act. FDA’s five years of work on the largest and most complex set of food safety regulations wrapped up in a timeframe that means the regs cannot be easily threatened.

GMO labeling regulations are not due until after the period of time currently covered by the 2-for-1 order. The president could extend the order into next year, which would catch USDA in a 2-for-1 exercise. USDA last year completed a new poultry inspection rule that was years in the making.

Trump’s regulatory reforms come after President Barack Obama was credited with imposing more regulations than any other president in history, based such measures as the number of pages published in the Federal Register.

The guidance memo says cost savings of deregulatory actions that do not end with the outright repeal of an existing regulation will be decided on a case-by-case basis by the OMB.

Update: Food Safety News has learned FDA has not yet proposed  rules for food lab accreditation standards, requirements for posting recall notices, and traceability for high-risk foods–all under FSMA. It not clear whether that work will occur in 2017 or also wait until next year.


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