Obama Administration Working Group on Food Safety

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You deserve safe, healthy food. Help us label GMOs and get antibiotics out of food animals.

By Consumers Union on Tuesday, July 7th, 2009


Reuters is reporting that the Obama Administration:

…ordered tougher steps to curb Salmonella and E. coli contamination of U.S. food and created a post of deputy food commissioner to coordinate safety in the wake of a major Salmonella outbreak.

The administration, concerned by delays in identifying the source of the Salmonella contamination that sickened more than 700 people in 46 states this year, also moved to revamp the tracing system to identify origins of foodborne illnesses.

CU’s own Jean Halloran got a great quote as well:

Jean Halloran, director of the Consumer Union‘s food safety campaign, said the new position of FDA deputy commissioner for food “means that, for the first time, there is a ‘go to’ person at FDA whose sole responsibility is keeping food safe.

In addition to the Deputy position they announced the following imperatives for the new food safety approach:

  1. Prioritizing prevention
  2. Strengthening surveillance and enforcement
  3. Improving response to and recovery from outbreaks

In an effort at better management and coordination, the FSWG is seeking to coordinate the activities of agencies that oversee food issues, and has created two new positions:

  1. Deputy Commissioner for Foods, to oversee and coordinate its efforts on food, including food safety. This position, reporting to the FDA Commissioner, will be empowered to restructure and revitalize FDA’s activities and work with USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), and other agencies, in developing a new food safety system. —The ostensible Taylor position…
  2. Chief Medical Officer, at FSIS: 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.

Read the rest of this great in-depth coverage on Civil Eats.

Here is the press release CU sent out about the announcement:

The White House today is announcing new food safety standards aimed at reducing Salmonella and E. coli outbreaks, plus the creation of a new FDA deputy commissioner position to increase coordination of federal food safety measures.

Jean Halloran, the director of Consumers Union’s food safety campaign, made the following statement about the White House announcement:

“These new measures represent real progress towards improving the safety of food in the U.S. The creation of this new position means that, for the first time, there is a ‘go to’ person at FDA whose sole responsibility is keeping food safe. We are also pleased to see the issuance of the FDA egg safety rule, which languished for years during the previous administration without becoming final.

“We agree that new standards for Salmonella in poultry are needed to address persistent problems with contamination. We also need action on development of a standard for Campylobacter, another bacteria that is prevalent in poultry and which makes many Americans sick every year.

“Guidance for controlling E. coli in produce will also help prevent problems like the contamination of bagged spinach that occurred several years ago that caused several deaths and many illnesses. We hope FDA will also consider issuing regulations on this topic, since compliance with guidance is optional.

“We urge lawmakers to move promptly to pass the Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009. This is a good piece of legislation that will require FDA to develop regulations to improve produce safety, which can also be contaminated by Salmonella. We also support the Administration’s plan to develop of traceability systems, so FDA can more quickly find the source of contaminated products.”

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