USA Rice Makes the Case to FDA for an SOI for Rice

FDA Public Mtg, Lydia Holmes, wearing a dark business suit, stands in crowded conference room, talking into a standing microphone
USA Rice's Lydia Holmes
Jul 27, 2018
ROCKVILLE, MD -- Ag and food industry leaders and advocacy groups gathered here yesterday to provide comments and feedback to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) during a public meeting on the agency’s comprehensive, multi-year Nutrition Innovation Strategy.  A major topic of discussion at the open forum was modernization of the FDA’s standards of identity (SOI) program.

Lydia Holmes, manager of regulatory affairs at USA Rice, attended the meeting to give comments on the current lack of a federal SOI for rice, an issue that has exacerbated the issue of rice pretenders in the marketplace.  

“We’ve spent a lot of time and effort educating consumers about the nutritional content of rice and the ways it can fit into their diet,” said Holmes, as she advocated for the adoption and enforcement of a clear SOI for rice.  “It is misleading for consumers to then see that name on a vegetable product that does not have comparable nutrients to rice.  Both vegetables and grains have their place in the market, just not using the same name.”

Dairy industry advocates also were on hand to urge FDA to step up enforcement of the existing SOI for milk, specifically in the case of non-dairy, plant-based beverages made from almond, soy, oats, and pea protein.  Proponents of non-dairy substitute beverages that utilize the term “milk” in their labeling argued during these open sessions that freedom of speech and an open marketplace should protect their use of that language, while those in favor of strong and consistent SOI enforcement spoke of the need for consumer safety, consistent regulation, and transparency in the food industry.

“In this room and online we have heard a diverse and very valuable set of comments for us to consider as we move forward,” said Robin McKinnon, senior advisor for nutrition policy at the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.  “I’ve been struck by the energy and enthusiasm from everybody at this meeting.”

The day-long discussion marked the beginning of a one-month open comment period on nutrition innovation issues, during which the public can submit comments to the FDA via mail or online.  The Administration will take submissions under advisement until August 27 and use this input to inform their policy actions.

USA Rice will continue to pressure the FDA to establish a federal SOI for rice and enforce common sense regulations that protect consumers.