Monday, August 22, 2011

Asian Honey, Banned in Europe, Is Flooding U.S. Grocery Shelves


Honey Laundering

Asian Honey, Banned in Europe, Is Flooding U.S. Grocery Shelves

FDA has the laws needed to keep adulterated honey off store shelves but does little, honey industry says.

A third or more of all the honey consumed in the U.S. is likely to have been smuggled in from China and may be tainted with illegal antibiotics and heavy metals.  A Food Safety News investigation has documented that millions of pounds of honey banned as unsafe in dozens of countries are being imported and sold here in record quantities. 

And the flow of Chinese honey continues despite assurances from the Food and Drug Administration and other federal officials that the hundreds of millions of pounds reaching store shelves were authentic and safe following the widespread arrests and convictions of major smugglers over the last two years.
Thumbnail image for honeycomb406.jpgExperts interviewed by Food Safety News say some of the largest and most long-established U.S. honey packers are knowingly buying mislabeled, transshipped or possibly altered honey so they can sell it cheaper than those companies who demand safety, quality and rigorously inspected honey. 

"It's no secret that the honey smuggling is being driven by money, the desire to save a couple of pennies a pound," said Richard Adee, who is the Washington Legislative Chairman of the American Honey Producers Association. 

"These big packers are still using imported honey of uncertain safety that they know is illegal because they know their chances of getting caught are slim," Adee said.

Food safety investigators from the European Union barred all shipments of honey from India because of the presence of lead and illegal animal antibiotics.  Further, they found an even larger amount of honey apparently had been concocted without the help of bees, made from artificial sweeteners and then extensively filtered to remove any proof of contaminants or adulteration or indications of precisely where the honey actually originated.

An examination of international and government shipping tallies, customs documents and interviews with some of North America's top honey importers and brokers documented the rampant honey laundering and that a record amount of the Chinese honey was being purchased by major U.S. packers.

Food Safety News contacted Suebee Co-Op, the nation's oldest and largest honey packer and seller, for a response to these allegations and to learn where it gets its honey. The co-op did not respond to repeated calls and emails for comment. Calls and emails to other major honey sellers also were unreturned. 

EU Won't Accept Honey from India

Much of this questionable honey was officially banned beginning June 2010 by the 27 countries of the European Union and others. But on this side of the ocean, the FDA checks few of the thousands of shipments arriving through 22 American ports each year. 

According to FDA data, between January and June, just 24 honey shipments were stopped from entering the country. The agency declined to say how many loads are inspected and by whom. 

However, during that same period, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that almost 43 million pounds of honey entered the U.S. Of that, the Department of Commerce said 37.7 million pounds came from India, the same honey that is banned in the EU because it contained animal medicine and lead and lacked the proper paperwork to prove it didn't come from China.

"There are still millions of pounds of transshipped Chinese honey coming in the U.S. and it's all coming now from India and Vietnam and everybody in the industry knows that," said Elise Gagnon, president of Odem International, a worldwide trading house that specializes in bulk raw honey. 

The FDA says it has regulations prohibiting foods banned in other countries from entering the U.S. However, the agency said last month that it "would not know about honey that has been banned from other countries ..."

Adee called the FDA's response "absurd." He said the European ban against Indian honey is far from a secret.

"Why are we the dumping ground of the world for something that's banned in all these other countries?" asked Adee, who, with 80,000 bee colonies in five states, is the country's largest honey producer.

"We're supposed to have the world's safest food supply but we're letting in boatloads of this adulterated honey that all these other countries know is contaminated and FDA does nothing."

The food safety agency said it's doing the best it can with existing resources and will do more when the newly passed Food Safety Modernization Act is up and running.

Where Is Our Honey Coming From?

honeypot350.jpgThe U.S. consumes about 400 million pounds of honey a year - about 1.3 pounds a person. About 35 percent is consumed in homes, restaurants and institutions. The remaining 65 percent is bought by industry for use in cereals, baked goods, sauces, beverages and hundreds of different processed foods.

However, the USDA says U.S. beekeepers can only supply about a 48 percent of what's needed here.  The remaining 52 percent comes from 41 other countries.   

Import Genius, a private shipping intelligence service, searched its databases of all U.S. Customs import data for Food Safety News and provided a telling breakdown: 

- The U.S. imported 208 million pounds of honey over the past 18 months.

- About 48 million pounds came from trusted and usually reliable suppliers in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Uruguay and Mexico.

- Almost 60 percent of what was imported - 123 million pounds - came from Asian countries - traditional laundering points for Chinese honey. This included 45 million pounds from India alone.

"This should be a red flag to FDA and the federal investigators. India doesn't have anywhere near the capacity - enough bees - to produce 45 million pounds of honey. It has to come from China," said Adee, who also is a past president of the American Honey Producers Association.

Why Is Chinese Honey Considered Dangerous? 

Chinese honeymakers began using various illegal methods to conceal the origin of their honey beginning in about 2001. That's when the U.S. Commerce Department imposed a stiff tariff - as much as $1.20 a pound -- on Chinese honey to dissuade that country from dumping its dirt-cheap product on the American market and forcing hundreds of U.S. beekeepers out of the business.

About the same time, Chinese beekeepers saw a bacterial epidemic of foulbrood disease race through their hives at wildfire speed, killing tens of millions of bees. They fought the disease with several Indian-made animal antibiotics, including chloramphenicol. Medical researchers found that children given chloramphenicol as an antibiotic are susceptible to DNA damage and carcinogenicity. Soon after, the FDA banned its presence in food.
"We need imported honey in this country.  But, what we don't need is circumvented honey, honey that is mislabeled as to country of origin, honey that is contaminated with antibiotics or heavy metal," said Ronald Phipps, co-chairman of the International Committee for Promotion of Honey and Health and head of the major honey brokerage firm CPNA International. 

Heavy Metal Contamination
The Chinese have many state-of-the-art processing plants but their beekeepers don't have the sophistication to match. There are tens of thousands of tiny operators spread from the Yangtze River and coastal Guangdong and Changbai to deep inland Qinghai province.  The lead contamination in some honey has been attributed to these mom-and-pop vendors who use small, unlined, lead-soldered drums to collect and store the honey before it is collected by the brokers for processing.

The amount of chloramphenicol found in honey is miniscule. Nevertheless, public health experts say it can cause a severe, even fatal reaction -- aplastic anemia -- in about one out of 30,000 people. 

European health authorities found lead in honey bought from India in early 2010. A year later, the Indian Export Inspection Council tested 362 samples of honey being exported and reported finding lead and at least two antibiotics in almost 23 percent of the test samples. 

The discovery of lead in the honey presents a more serious health threat.

"The presence of heavy metals is a totally different story, because heavy metals are accumulative, they are absorbed by organs and are retained. This is especially hazardous for children," Phipps said.  

All the bans, health concerns and criticism of Indian honey hasn't slowed the country's shipping of honey to the U.S. and elsewhere. In February, India's beekeepers and its government agricultural experts said that because of weather and disease in some colonies, India's honey crop would be late and reduced by up to 40 percent. 

Yet two months later, on April 15 in Ludhiana, officials of Kashmir Apiaries Exports and Little Bee Group, India's largest honey exporters, posed for newspaper photographers in front of "two full honey trains" carrying 180 20-foot cargo carriers with a record 8.8 million pounds of honey headed for the export ports.  

"They're clearly transshipping honey from China and I can't believe that they are so brazen about it to put it right on the front page of a newspaper," honey producer Adee said.

Data received by FSN from an international broker in India on Friday showed that within the last month 16 shipments - more than 688,000 pounds - of honey went from the Chinese port of Nansha in Guangzhou China to Little Bee Honey in India.  The U.S. gurus of international shipping documents - Import Genius - scanned its database and found that just last week six shipments of the honey went from Little Bee to the port of Los Angeles. The honey had the same identification numbers of the honey shipped from China.

Government investigators in the U.S. and Europe and customs brokers in India told FSN that previous successful criminal investigations had proven that the Chinese honey suppliers and their brokers are masterful at falsifying shipping documents.

Each of the shipments - whether from China or India - bore an identical FDA inspection number. However, FDA's Division of Import Operations did not respond to requests for information on how and where it issued that FDA number. 

Food Safety News left several messages for the Little Bee Group to discuss the source of their honey and how they were breaking records when the rest of India's honey producers were months behind schedule. None of the phone messages or emails were returned.

Other major Indian honey exporters insist that India gets no honey from China. However, Liu Peng-fei and Li Hai-yan of the prestigious Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences disagree. In a scientific study of the impact the global financial crisis is having on China's honey industry, the apiculture scientists wrote that to avoid the "punitive import tariffs" Chinese enterprises "had to export to the United States via India or Malaysia in order to avoid high tariffs..."

Why Hasn't Smuggling Stopped?

The massive honey laundering scams that plagued the U.S. for more than a decade - the transshipment of Chinese honey to a second country before being reshipped to the U.S. -- were presumably given a deathblow over the past two years.

During that period, Justice Department lawyers and Department of Homeland Security and FDA investigators launched a series of indictments and arrests of 23 German, Chinese, Taiwanese and American corporate officials and their nine international companies. 

They were charged with conspiracy to smuggle more than $70 million worth of Chinese honey into the U.S. by falsely declaring that the honey originated from countries other than China. That allowed them to avoid paying stiff anti-dumping charges imposed on China.

It was an impressive series of complex busts spanning three continents, and instant fodder for a great whodunit novel. But, according to some of North America's largest producers and importers of honey, the arrests bombed as a deterrent.  

"There are still millions of pounds of transshipped Chinese honey coming into the U.S.A. and it's all coming now from India and Vietnam. Everybody in the industry knows that," said Odem International's Gagnon.

How Do They Get Away With It?

When it comes to honey laundering, the crooks are always trying to stay one step ahead of the criminal investigators.

honeybarrels-inside.jpg
For example, when customs agents discovered that China usually shipped its honey in blue steel drums, the exporters quickly painted the drums green. 

It took investigators a while to learn that often -- while the drums were in port or en route at sea -- the Chinese shuffled drum labels and phony paperwork showing country of origin as places that didn't have an onerous anti-dumping tariff. The Russian Honey Federation blew the whistle on the Chinese relabeling millions of pounds as coming from Russia. 

After that scam became known, the felons then shipped Chinese honey to countries like Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and even Australia. There the honey was repacked, authentic local documents were issued and the honey was shipped on to the U.S. or elsewhere. 

Another favorite con among Chinese brokers was to mix sugar water, malt sweeteners, corn or rice syrup, jaggery, barley malt sweetener or other additives with a bit of actual honey. In recent years, many shippers have eliminated the honey completely and just use thickened, colored, natural or chemical sweeteners labeled as honey.

However, sophisticated analysis that will match the pollen in honey to flowers from a specific geographic region is available at just two or three laboratories around the world.  There are also simpler, less expensive tests to detect the telltale presence of commercial sweeteners and other adulterants that are more readily available.

A laboratory in Bremen, Germany, founded a half century ago by German beekeepers, can accurately scan honey samples for flower pollen.   There is only one expert in the U.S. known to analyze pollen in honey to determine where it was actually grown and that would be at the Palygnology Laboratory at Texas A&M.  The lab was created and is run by Vaughn Bryant, a forensic palynologist and Professor of Anthropology.

Melissopalynology, or pollen analysis, has been used for years by geologists seeking evidence of ancient coastal areas - often sites of major oil deposits. Scientists tracing the origins of the Shroud of Turin have identified 61 different pollens on the cloth that could only have come from around Jerusalem. 

Forensic scientists have used pollen identification to help solve murder, rapes, kidnapping and at least one espionage case. Now, at least in the labs in Texas and Germany, melissopalynologists use pollen to determine - with great accuracy - the geographic area where the bees foraged for the nectar. 

"If they find, for example, pollen from flowers that grow in northern latitudes - like China - but it's found in honey ostensibly produced in tropical countries - like India, Vietnam, Malaysia and the like - you know something's rotten or illegal," said CPNA International's Phipps, who also produces a quarterly, international intelligence report that monitors the country-by-country supply of honey and everyone's exports.

To avoid detection by concerned purchasers or criminal investigators, some Chinese producers in state-of-the-art processing plants pump the alleged honey, heated and under high pressure, through elaborate ceramic filters. This ultra-filtration removes or conceals all floral fingerprints and indicators of added sweeteners or contaminants.

"The Chinese have refined methods of masking their contaminated product by ultra-filtration so their honey seems perfect. But it's not honey anymore. There's no color.  There's no flavor. There's nothing.  So you take this perfect product, which could be confused with honey, and you blend it with real Indian honey," Gagnon said.

"Everyone avoids tariffs because government agents cannot test to prove it's from China."

honeytesting-inside.jpgThe FDA says it has sent a letter to industry stating that the agency does not consider ultra-filtered honey to be honey. 

"We have not halted any importation of honey because we have yet to detect ultra-filtered honey.  If we do detect ultra-filtered honey we will refuse entry," said FDA press officer Tamara Ward.

"FDA is just not looking" was the answer that most honey brokers offeredThey added that the FDA doesn't want to find it because then the agency would have to test for it, something it is incapable of doing in its existing laboratories. 

Honey experts worry that new technologies will make detection of adulterants even more difficult. 
At June's conference of the Institute of Food Technologists in New Orleans, there were hundreds of Chinese vendors working in small clusters beneath bright red banners. They offered for sale almost any spice, food-processing substance or additives a food processor might want and promises of concocting anything else they could dream of. "All FDA approved," they emphasized to potential clients. 

One salesman quickly jerked back his business card when a reporter pulled out a tape recorder to capture the man's promises offering a "nanoparticle sweetener for honey that cannot be detected."

Does the FDA Care?

The U.S. Departments of Customs and Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement have dollar and cents issues to worry about because hundreds of millions of dollars in unpaid taxes and anti-dumping tariffs on Chinese imports are circumvented by the honey laundering. 

"These honey crimes are not a Republican or Democratic, Liberal or Conservative issue.  The country is being ripped off of millions and millions," Phipps said.

Recent news releases by the border patrol and the FDA say they have developed an anti-smuggling strategy to identify and prevent smuggled foods from entering the United States and posing a threat to national security and consumer safety.

But at the field level, investigators with the two agencies and an agent with ICE's Commercial Fraud Unit said the cooperation is more on paper then in practice and that the FDA continues to be the weak link. They say the FDA either doesn't have the resources to properly do the job or is unwilling to commit them.
ICE and the border patrol can and do go after the honey launderers by enforcing the anti-dumping and tariff violation laws. But protecting consumers from dangerous honey, identifying it as adulterated and therefore illegal for importation, falls to the FDA. And many of its enforcement colleagues say the food safety agency doesn't see this as a priority.

A Justice Department lawyer told Food Safety News that the FDA has all the legal authority and obligation it needs to halt the importation of tainted honey. He cited two sections of the agency's regulations defining when food products are considered "adulterated." 

The regulations say: "Food is adulterated if it bears or contains a poisonous or deleterious substance which may render it injurious to health" and "damage or inferiority has been concealed."

Those two factors pretty much sum up the health concerns that many have with the smuggled honey. But the honey industry and Congress can't get the FDA to even come up with a legal definition of what honey is.

Eight years ago, America's beekeepers and some honey packers petitioned FDA to issue an official definition of honey. Their concern was how to determine whether honey is bogus if there is no official standard to measure it against. The FDA did nothing. 

Last Nov. 15, senators asked the food safety agency for the same thing. Again, nothing.

On Aug. 10, two members of the Senate Committee on Appropriations tried once more.

Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and John Hoeven (R-ND) urged the FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg to issue the official definition.

Calling the lack of regulations "a food safety concern," Gillibrand said a national standard of identity for honey is needed "to prevent unscrupulous importers from flooding the market with misbranded honey products..."

An investigator in FDA's import section explained the agency's refusal to develop an official definition to FSN. "If we had an official description of honey then FDA would have to inspect everything we're importing to ensure it's legal. That's the last thing we want to do," he said, but would not allow his name to be used because he wasn't authorized to make public statements. 

How Do You Stop The Illegal Flow?

Gagnon and four other major players in the honey industry have formed a voluntary group called True Source Honey.  They hope it will eventually expand into an international, industry-wide program to certify the origin and quality of honey. 

"We need an origin traceability program, a professional audit of both the exporters and the packers so those buying and selling honey can ensure its authenticity and quality," said Gagnon, who is the group's vice chairman.
Meanwhile, it's rumored that the feds are increasing their surveillance of the large U.S. importers and not too soon, Adee and others say. 

Adee likens the honey laundering to a huge auto chop shop, where the police occasionally arrest the low-level car thieves but others pop up to continue supplying the criminal operation, which authorities never go after.

"That's what's happening here," Adee explained. "ICE and the other investigators have arrested a handful of the middle men, the brokers who supply the honey packers, but haven't gone after the big operators buying the phony foreign honey."
Adee and others interviewed by Food Safety News say there are 12 major honey packers in the U.S. and four or five that are involved with the bulk of illegal trade.
 
"We know who they are," he said. "Everyone in the industry knows. If these packers are allowed to continue buying this possibly tainted but clearly illegal smuggled honey, the importers will always find a way to get it to them."

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Monsanto rolls out GMO sweet corn

 NOTE:  This press release was issued by "The Packer," a fresh produce industry publication for industrial food crops.


Vegetable seed giant Monsanto Co. is entering the genetically modified sweet corn market earlier than expected, but how soon consumers will get over their fear of GMOs remains to be seen.

Creve Coeur, Mo.-based Monsanto will sell GMO sweet corn for plantings this fall, said Danielle Stuart, a company spokeswoman. Originally, rollout of the product was slated for 2012.

The seed, to be sold under Monsanto’s Seminis Performance Series label, protects against European corn borers, corn earworms, fall army worms and corn rootworm larvae and is resistant to Roundup weed control herbicides, Stuart said.

Boise, Idaho-based Rogers Brand Vegetable Seeds, a division of Basel, Switzerland-based Syngenta International AG, introduced its Attribute brand GMO sweet corn seed in 1998.

Even after 13 years, however, consumer resistance to GMO sweet corn remains high, grower-shippers say.

E. Miedema & Sons, Byron Center, Mich., uses GMO seed on about 100 of its 700 sweet corn acres, said Dave Miedema, the company’s president.

GMO seed provides good disease and pest protection, Miedema said, but consumer resistance has checked category growth.

“It definitely has a place, but you always have to be careful,” he said. “Certain customers won’t accept it.”

GMO sweet corn has been the victim of propaganda, not legitimate criticism, Miedema said.

“It’s just PR,” he said. “It’s silly. It’s just people’s perceptions.”

Miedema said consumers’ attitudes toward GMOs haven’t changed much in recent years.

Those attitudes will likely change, but it hasn’t happened yet, said John Gill, owner of Hurley, N.Y.-based Gill Corn Farms Inc.

Because of consumer resistance, Gill Corn Farms doesn’t grow any GMO sweet corn.

People already eat plenty of GMO foods, including grains and chicken, Gill said. That’s one of the reasons he thinks they’ll eventually come around on sweet corn and other produce commodities.

GMO foods are not only safe, Gill said. They’re also environmentally friendly, since they require fewer pesticides.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

China: 2,000 Arrested in Food Safety Crackdown

China's latest food safety crackdown, which focused on the rampant use of illegal and often dangerous food additives, resulted in 2,000 arrests and 4,900 business shut downs, official state media announced last week.

Since April, authorities have inspected nearly 6 million food or additive manufacturers and catering businesses, according to an update issued by the Food Safety Commission, which operates under the State Council. The campaign is the latest in a series of initiatives aimed at quelling widespread distrust of food production in China.

In May, Chinese authorities announced they resolved more than 1,000 severe food safety cases so far in 2011, including hundreds of arrests.

In a country with an enormous food sector, and limited transparency, it's difficult to assess the overall impact of the waves of enforcement, but the campaigns have certainly not kept food safety from the headlines.

In the past few months alone, hundreds have been seriously sickened by clenbuterol-tainted pork, over a dozen noodle makers were ordered to stop production because they were using ink, industrial dyes and paraffin wax as ingredients, and 16 tons of pork were pulled from the marketplace for containing sodium borate, a chemical that seemingly transforms cheap pork into darker, higher-value "beef."

Chinese officials also arrested 12 people for involvement in a 40-ton bean sprout debacle, in which farmers were using sodium nitrite (a known carcinogen), urea, antibiotics and a plant hormone called 6-benzaledenine to make the sprouts grow faster and look shinier.

In recent weeks, seemingly fantastic exploding watermelons and glow-in-the-dark pork scandals have garnered international media attention as well, further complicating China's effort to boost consumer confidence.

According to the latest update, police have investigated 1,200 criminal cases concerning "the illegal adding of non-edible materials in food" and destroyed key elements of black market food production.

The statement said government agencies across the country will "continue the fight against irregularities to safeguard food" and severely punish violators.

by Helena Bottemiller | Aug 09, 2011

With Debt Deal, Food Safety Funding Uncertain

The debt deal struck by leaders in Washington last week has food policy insiders worried about the future of food safety funding at both the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration.

The deal -- liked by virtually no one, but praised for saving the country from default -- raised the debt ceiling through 2012 in exchange for between $2.1 and 2.4 trillion in savings over the next 10 years, including $917 billion in savings by capping discretionary spending, which includes public health agencies.

Future budget cuts, though significant, will "protect core investments," according to the Obama administration, but it is hard to see a budgetary scenario in which FDA and USDA, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are able to expand their capacity or invest in additional initiatives. Appropriators in the House and Senate have tough decisions ahead as they work to trim almost a trillion dollars from a wide variety of programs.

The spending limits come right as FDA is working to implement an ambitious food safety overhaul, mandated by the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act that President Obama signed into law in January.

"I don't see [FDA] going above flat line at best ... which is effectively a cut," says food safety consultant David Acheson, who served as associate commissioner of foods at FDA under the Bush administration. "FDA will likely stay on track with the [Food Safety Modernization Act] rule writing, but enforcement will be compromised as will the inspection mandates."

The Alliance for a Stronger FDA, a group of consumer and industry interests that lobbies for building the agency's capacity to regulate food and drugs in the 21st century, says it's "impossible to say" where exactly FDA or other agencies stand before the appropriations subcommittees weigh in, but the agency would likely fare better than under the House-passed agriculture appropriations bill. The House measure called for $285 million in cuts to the agency for fiscal year 2012, an 11 percent cut, $87 million of the reduction would come from food safety.

The Alliance is continuing to actively lobby for a budget increase at FDA and is planning an ad campaign targeting Capitol Hill publications in September.

"We have been active in presenting the Senate with reasons why FDA needs an increased level of funding in FY 12," writes Steven Grossman, deputy executive director for the Alliance. "We have been working to show the House that a higher FDA number from the Senate would be justified and should be accepted."

"FDA's responsibilities are not going to shrink just because federal spending is being reduced. We hope Congress sees, as we do, that FDA is not optional," added Grossman. "It is part of what society needs to function."

How the debt deal will impact USDA programs, including the Food Safety and Inspection Service, is also not entirely clear. Though the deal stipulates what cannot be cut -- food stamps and direct payments, for example, are protected through at least 2013 -- discretionary cuts will still apply.

"We're not sure how they're going to allocate these discretionary cuts, but clearly, you know, the department's going to get their share, and they've been cut so much already that it's going to have an impact," Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN), ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee, told Farmpolicy.com in an interview last week.

Agriculture Secretary Vilsack told an audience of food protection professionals in Milwaukee he would work to keep food safety a priority at USDA.

"There are a lot of things we'd like to do, but one of the things we must do, and I will tell you that food safety is one of those things that ... is a must do," said Vilsack at the International Association of Food Protection conference last week, citing the tough budget landscape ahead. "We'll be looking at ways in which we can, even in a constrained resource environment, do a better job."

The House agriculture appropriations bill, passed in June, calls for a $35 million cut, a less than 4 percent cut for meat, poultry, and processed egg inspection. The Senate has not acted on FDA and USDA budgets for FY 2012 yet.

As for the more structural spending cuts under the debt deal, a so-called super committee made up of six Democrats and six Republicans will ultimately outline the toughest reductions -- entitlement reform, tax reform and revenue are all on the table, though what combination of these will be tenable is not clear. The panel must develop a plan to reduce approximately $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction over ten years and report back by Nov. 23.

If the committee fails to find cuts, or Congress refuses to adopt them, an enforcement mechanism will trigger spending reductions beginning in 2013 - split 50/50 between domestic and defense spending, according to the White House outline of the agreement.

Enforcement protects Social Security, Medicare beneficiaries, and low-income programs from any cuts, but the triggers could have significant impacts on other domestic programs, including food safety and other public health functions.