Obama Administration Announces Steps to Improve Food Safety

July 12, 2009 07:00 PM
American Meat Institute news release

The Obama Administration announced last week several steps to improve the safety of the nation's food supply including reducing the threat of E. coli O157:H7 through stepped up enforcement in beef facilities, cutting Salmonella risk in poultry products and building a national traceback and response system to track the sources of illnesses.  

Vice President Joe Biden told invited guests at a White House briefing that there are few responsibilities more important for the government than making sure the food our families eat is safe.  "Our food safety systems needs an update,” Biden said.  

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius joined Vice President Biden to outline the President's Food Safety Working Group findings.  AMI and other stakeholders attended the briefing.

Specifically, by the end of the year, the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) will develop new standards to reduce the prevalence of Salmonella in turkeys and poultry. The agency will also establish a Salmonella verification program with the goal of having 90 percent of poultry establishments meeting the new standards by the end of 2010.

By the end of July, FSIS will issue improved instructions to its workforce on how to verify establishments that handle beef are acting to reduce the presence of E. coli. Also by the end of July, FSIS will increase its sampling to find this pathogen, focusing largely on the components that go into making ground beef.

Within three months, FDA will issue draft guidance on steps the food industry can take to establish product tracing systems to improve our national capacity for detecting the origins of foodborne illness.

In July 2009, FDA will create a new position, Deputy Commissioner for Foods, to oversee and coordinate its efforts on food, including food safety. This position, reporting to the commissioner, will be empowered to restructure and revitalize FDA's activities and work with FSIS, and other agencies, in developing a new food safety system. Within the next three months, USDA will create a new position, Chief Medical Officer, at FSIS. This position will report to the Under Secretary for Food Safety, and will enhance USDA's commitment to preventing foodborne illness.

The Food Safety Working Group is chaired by Secretaries Sebelius and Vilsack, and participating agencies include the FDA, Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Commerce, the Department of State, the Environmental Protection Agency and several offices of the White House.

 For a copy of the Food Safety Working Group Key Findings go to http://www.foodsafetyworkinggroup.gov/.

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