New regs for Thursday: Rule delays and healthy labels

New regs for Thursday: Rule delays and healthy labels
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Thursday’s edition of the Federal Register contains a litany of rulemakings to delay rules finalized in the waning days of the Obama administration as well as a notice from the Food and Drug Administration announcing a public meeting on the use of the term “healthy” on product labels.

Here’s the lowdown:    

Addicts: The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is delaying a final rule aimed at better protecting the privacy of alcohol and drug abuse patients who seek treatment.

The rule, finalized on Jan. 18, allows patients to consent to disclosing their information using a general designation of “my treating providers” to allow patients to benefit from an integrated healthcare system.

But healthcare providers must upon request tell patients who received their information.

HHS said disclosing the records of individuals with substance use disorders has the potential to lead to a host of negative consequences, including: loss of employment, loss of housing, loss of child custody, discrimination by medical professionals and insurers, arrest, prosecution and incarceration.

The agency said the rule aims to ensure the patient privacy is protected.

The rule, scheduled to take effect Feb. 17, has now been delayed until March 21. HHS said it’s following the Trump administration’s order to freeze all regulatory actions.

Agency heads were advised to delay the effective date of rules that had already been published for at least another 60 days.

Disabled workers: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is delaying a rule to require federal agencies to enact hiring policies that favor individuals with disabilities.

The final rule aims to clarifies the affirmative action obligation under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 by requiring agencies to take specific steps to gradually increase the number of employees who have a disability or targeted disability, which include deafness, blindness, partial or complete paralysis, convulsive disorder, mental illness and missing extremity.

The rule also requires agencies to provide these employees with personal assistance services.

The rule set to take effect March 6 is now delayed until March 21. EEOC said its following President Trump’s order to freeze all regulatory action.

Toxins: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is delaying a rule to amend the list of agents and toxins that have the potential to pose a severe threat to animals and plants.

Under the Agriculture Bioterrorism Protection Act of 2002, the agency is required to review and republish the list every two years. The rule includes a provision to address the inactivation of select toxins, address bio-containment and biosafety and clarify regulatory language concerning security, training, incident response, and records.

The rule is now delayed until March 21.

Healthy: The Food and Drug Administration is planning to hold a public meeting on March 9 to discuss when and if it’s appropriate to use the term “healthy” on food labels.

The meeting will be held at the Hilton Rockville Hotel in Maryland. Those wishing to attend are asked to register on the FDA’s website.

Last year, FDA released guidance advising manufacturers that products labeled as “healthy” must meet FDA’s low-fat requirement and list on the label the amounts of mono- and polyunsaturated fats.