New regs for Thursday: Whistleblowers, insomnia drug

Thursday's edition of the Federal Register contains new rules to protect whistleblowers in the food industry and penalize people who handle an insomnia drug that has not yet received market approval.

Here's what is happening:

Whistleblowers: The Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is moving forward with new whistleblower protections for employees in the food industry.

The new rules, effective immediately, protect employees against retaliation if they provide or plan to provide information about illegal activities during the manufacture, processing, packing, transporting, distribution, reception, holding, or importation of food.

These rules will establish procedures and time frames for handling complaints from whistleblowers, who will have 180 days to file a complaint against their employer with the Labor Department. This would cover OSHA investigations, appeals of OSHA determinations, and hearings with an administrative law judge. 

The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, signed into law in January 2011, states that these whistleblowers should be protected, while these new rules establish the specific procedures and time frames for protecting these workers.

Insomnia: The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is looking to add an insomnia drug to its list of illegal substances. 

Suvorexant helps people who struggle sleeping by increasing drowsiness, but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last July stopped it from reaching the market, because it argued the recommended dose was too high and could lead to suicidal thoughts. The FDA, however, indicated that it would consider approving the drug, if it came with a lower dosage. 

The DEA, meanwhile, is proposing penalties for people who handle Suvorexant. That could include people who manufacture, distribute, dispense, import, export, or possess the drug.

FOIA: The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) is revising its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) policies. The new rules, which go into effect on Friday, will mostly affect businesses who file FOIA requests, the agency said.

The rules will streamline the agency's FOIA process with those of other agencies. It will include substantive and administrative changes that reflect OPIC's cost for complying with the requests.

Endangered species: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is making a couple of changes to the endangered species list.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to remove the Modoc sucker from the federal endangered species list, because the agency says it is no longer endangered or threatened. The Modoc sucker is a rare fish that is native to the Pacific Northwest.

The public has two months to submit comments on the proposal.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is also considering changes to a proposed rule that would designate a habitat for Ivesia webberi. The changes would increase the habitat by about 159 acres. The agency released a draft economic analysis to support its proposal.

Ivesia webberi, also known as wire mousetail, is a flowering plant in the rose family that is native to northern parts of the Sierra Nevada.

The agency is reopening the comment period through March 17 to discuss the new changes.