New Agriculture Chief Talks Food Safety
The new Agriculture
Secretary Tom Vilsak said the U.S. needs to modernize its food safety system
before it tackles the issue of whether responsibility for protecting what
Americans eat should be reorganized from the current system, where multiple
agencies are sometimes not communicating with one another or, worse yet,
working at cross purposes.
system would have as a goal prevention, early detection if it can’t be
prevented, and mitigation of any adverse impacts if something occurs," Mr. Vilsak said
in a conference call with reporters.
think before there can be any conversation about merging of entities or
a single agency or anything of that sort, you’ve got to get the foundation
The new secretary
pointed to the case of individuals in over 40 states being sickened by
salmonella-tainted peanut butter as an issue where Agriculture might not
have a direct regulatory role but where communication is still critical
there is nothing connected directly with USDA, it’s not a product that
we necessarily regulate, it is a product that could potentially get into
some of the systems that we are responsible for, the school lunch programs
and nutrition programs. So we want to make sure that everybody is aware
of the concerns about peanut butter and are taking the steps necessary
to guard against it."
a group of 10 organizations, including the American Frozen Food Institute,
Food Marketing Institute, Grocery Manufacturers Association, International
Bottled Water Association, International Dairy Foods Association, National
Fisheries Institute, National Restaurant Association, Retail Industry Leaders
Association, Snack Food Association and the United Fresh Produce Association,
sent a letter to Congress asking for changes to the food safety system.
This included giving the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority
to establish standards for fruits and vegetables and increased power when
it comes to food recalls. It also urged Congress to require
foreign supplier safety plans and to improve its ability to inspect products
What steps must the federal government and those involved in the agricultural,
manufacturing/processing, retailing and foodservice industries take to
create the strongest possible safeguards for the nation’s food supply?
- Transcript of News Conference
with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsak – U.S. Department of Agriculture
- GMA Calls
on Congress to Enact Food Safety Reforms – Grocery Manufacturers