Even though the year started in a partial government shutdown, the government relations team from the American Bakers Association (ABA) continued to push forward on several key regulatory initiatives. We like to take the beginning of the year to plan out the priorities for the baking industry—honing in on work we think will gain traction and drive actionable results for our members.

Those of us based in Washington, D.C. know—and want others to understand—the government shutdown will certainly create a backlog of work from the agencies. There are certain issues we were working on—such as the 2020 dietary guidelines—that were already behind schedule. These schedules will be bumped back even more, and there’s only so much that can be done in a day.

With that said, ABA will focus on several key regulatory issues in 2019.

FDA fiber definitions. As an update to the “FDA provides guidance on dietary fibers” column I wrote in August 2018, we continue to seek closure from the FDA on the remaining fiber definitions. It is still unclear whether FDA has officially opined on intrinsic and intact fibers. We hope to get clarity soon.

Hours of service. Adjustments to the hours of service (HOS) regulations has proven to be one of the most-exciting opportunities to make gains for our industry in the regulatory space. In light of the electronic logging device (ELD) rollout, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has announced, through multiple posted petitions and advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM)—including our own—that the time has come to reevaluate what makes the most sense for truckers and trucking companies. ABA has taken this opportunity to co-submit with our dairy industry partners, the International Dairy Foods Association, an exemption request that would allow truckers hauling essential food staples to be exempt from HOS in the time ahead of a natural disaster—better preparing Americans for storms and allowing our drivers to complete their runs. Additionally, ABA has commented on several other proposed changes to the HOS, including the recently successful preemption of California’s meal and rest break provisions—allowing for uniform break standards across state lines.

Ongoing Food Safety Modernization Act implementation. Implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), with a focus on facility inspections, continues to be a concern for the baking industry. For most bakers, it has been business as usual, old GMP-type inspections. However, some FDA officials venturing into the Preventive Controls arena during inspections appear to be relying on draft FDA guidance documents. This “draft status” is creating inconsistency during inspections, leaving manufacturers confused as to where their efforts should focus. In 2019, ABA recommends that FDA should maintain its educational and training focus for inspectors. We also urge members to alert us of these situations so that we may engage with FDA.

Proposition 65. ABA closely monitors the increased activity under the California Proposition 65 program. Over the past few years, special interest groups and plaintiff attorneys have scrutinized and questioned the baking industry’s products. These questions are concerning, because wheat-based products, such as breads and cereals, are recommended by USDA’s MyPlate program as a nutritious and necessary staple for healthy eating patterns.

FDA Nutrition Innovation Strategy. In 2018, FDA Commissioner Gottlieb’s prioritization of the multi-year priorities and plan in the nutrition policy space beyond the Nutrition Facts label revision provided insight on potential opportunities for bakers in 2019 and beyond. ABA will have the opportunity to weigh in on modernization of health claims and the definition of “healthy,” as well as revisit the standards of identify to address emerging technology as part of the equation as bakers move forward with development of innovative products.