What Will The Obama Era Mean For The Food Industry?

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It has only been a week since the inauguration, but changes are already being made by new appointees of President Obama, including USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack who listed child nutrition and improving food safety among his top priorities. Both of the issues and much more was discussed at the recent webinar The Obama Era: What Does It Mean For the Food Industry?

It has only been a week since the inauguration, but changes are already being made by new appointees of President Obama, including USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack who listed child nutrition and improving food safety among his top priorities. Both of the issues and much more was discussed at the recent webinar The Obama Era: What Does It Mean For the Food Industry? Jan. 14, 2009. This event drew scores of attendees who received a look at the current administration and the challenges it will face in the coming years. A recording of the event can be download at http://www.foodinstitute.com/foodregs2009.cfm.

The early hours of the Barack Obama administration proved very eventful, as the President wasted little time in addressing policy established over the previous eight years under the Bush administration. The immediate flurry of activity indicates that the what follows will bring profound and abundant change, and the group assembled by The Food Institute and Washington insider law firm Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Bode Matz P.C. represents the most experienced and insightful professionals yet organized to focus on the ripples that will be felt by the food industry resulting from a sea change in Washington.

With a Democratic White House and a substantial Democratic majority in both houses of Congress, expectations are high for far-reaching legislation with significant repercussions for those in the industry. Former U.S. Congressman Charles Stenholm, known as "Mr. Agriculture" for his well-established experience in Congress on food and agricultural issues and immense knowledge of the business, provides a Washington veteran's familiarity with current representatives and the legislative process. Mr. Stenholm's contributions to the webinar will prove invaluable to anyone involved at any level in the food and agriculture business.

Attorney Marshall L. Matz, recent recipient of the Gene White Lifetime Achievement Award for Child Nutrition, discusses the importance of the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004, set to expire on Sept. 30, 2009. Mr. Matz describes the many changes likely to be enforced in the reauthorization, particularly in relation to the obesity epidemic, an issue notably placed at the forefront of the new administration's health agenda, as well as the difficulties the reforms will encounter amid the balance of the Economic Stimulus Package and budgetary restraints. This issue will undoubtedly affect any food manufacturer as welfare reform, changes to the school lunch program and an increased importance on childhood nutrition will spill over into innumerable market segments.

The growing influence of consumer and health groups on an activist federal government will assuredly have a considerable impact on future regulations and legislation, and founder and former Chairman of the Food Institute Rick Frank discusses the various groups and representatives that will push for agendas and reforms marginalized by a pro-industry Bush administration. Food safety reform, which was not particularly emphasized over the past eight years, is one of 13 "urgent priorities" as compiled by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. As legislation concerning food safety is highly likely before the end of 2009, leading food industry legislative and regulatory expert Bob Hahn explores the possibilities for FDA reorganization or the creation of an entirely new entity to regulate food safety. With expanded federal authority on food safety issues, food processors and importers will be subject to greater compliance standards and will receive increased scrutiny from regulators.

Other issues discussed in the webinar were:

I.    Issuance of a report from FDA's Science Advisory Board classifying CFSAN as in a "state of crisis"
II.    Obesity epidemic continues to worsen, with increasing evidence that consumers not using or not understanding the nutrition label
III.    States, cities, and counties beginning to enact their own food laws, including bans on trans fat in restaurant foods and nutrition labeling of restaurant foods
IV.    Rising food prices, with some blaming diversion of grains to ethanol as a contributing factor
V.    Economic downturn has increased food insecurity and demand for food assistance programs among low-income Americans
VI.    Perception that FDA under Bush Administration has been "toothless"

A recording of the webinar can be found on the Food Institute website at http://www.foodinstitute.com/foodregs2009.cfm with more details and commentary.

The Food Institute is the foremost resource for information relative to the food industry and produces e-newsletters, printed analytical reports, guides and statistical reviews of food industry developments.
Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Bode Matz P.C. is a prominent Washington-based law firm that specializes in food legislation and regulation, including food safety, labeling and food importation.

Contact: Henry Mollman
201 791-5570, ext. 215

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