USDA and FDA Weigh In On U.S. Rice Industry Issues

At a business meeting a man holds up a small, orange package while a woman wearing glasses smiles at him
WMP Subcommittee Chair Keith Glover (left) shows a rice pretender to FDA's Mayne
May 17, 2019
WASHINGTON, DC -- The USA Rice World Market Price (WMP) Subcommittee held its spring meeting here yesterday to discuss U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports on projected planting intentions and production figures, and to compare those numbers with their own forecasts.

The consensus was that throughout Arkansas and in parts of Texas, Mississippi, and Missouri, total plantings will be slightly lower than USDA projections due to frequent and heavy rainfall this spring.  Louisiana expects total plantings will be similar to the USDA projection, and California projects plantings will be slightly higher than USDA figures.

Staff from USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) and Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) also attended yesterday’s meeting.  NASS officials outlined their projection methodology and noted the new projections provided by WMP Subcommittee members.  FAS staff discussed a wide range of international trade issues, including recent favorable World Trade Organization (WTO) rulings, market access updates, and forthcoming free trade negotiations with Japan and the EU.

Dr. Susan Mayne, director of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also joined the meeting to discuss key topics for the U.S. rice industry.  Mayne heard from the Subcommittee on mislabeled products using the word “rice” on their packaging when there is no rice in the product.  As a scientist, Mayne stressed the importance of acquiring consumer data on labeling perception that could give FDA hard proof these products are causing consumer confusion and that agency action needs to be taken.
The definition of “ready-to-eat” under Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) regulations was another topic of discussion.  USA Rice emphasized that rice and ingredients like rice flour and rice bran oil cannot be consumed without cooking and should not be covered under that definition.  Mayne said FDA has been working on guidance to clarify what is and is not covered under the official definition.