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The White House

Obama Administration Delivers on Commitment to Upgrade U.S. Food Safety System


Office of the Vice President
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                July 7, 2009

Obama Administration Delivers on Commitment to Upgrade U.S. Food Safety System

Vice President Biden, Secretaries Vilsack and Sebelius Announce Key Findings of Food Safety Working Group
WASHINGTON – Today Vice President Biden was joined by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to announce the key findings of the Food Safety Working Group. Created by President Obama in March to advise the Administration on how to upgrade the food safety system for the 21st century, the Working Group is recommending a new, public health-focused approach to food safety based on three core principles: prioritizing prevention; strengthening surveillance and enforcement; and improving response and recovery.
"There are few responsibilities more basic or more important for the government than making sure the food our families eat is safe," said Vice President Biden.  "Our food safety system must be updated – 1 in 4 people get sick every year due to food-borne illness, and children and the elderly are more at risk.   I applaud the Secretaries of HHS and the USDA for tackling this problem head-on and coming up with key recommendations to ensure the health and safety of our food supply and, with it, the American people."
"Instead of spending their time trying to get kids to eat healthier food, too many parents and families are worrying about whether their food is safe in the first place," said Secretary Sebelius.  "In just the past few months since we began work with the Food Safety Working Group, we have seen recalls on everything from spinach to peanut products to now even cookie dough. The Administration recognizes that the current system just isn’t working for America’s families and under the President’s leadership we are taking action to keep our food supply safe and prevent outbreaks that can impact millions of Americans."
"There isn’t a single American that isn’t impacted by our efforts to protect the food supply," said Secretary Vilsack.  "We owe it to the American people to deliver on President Obama’s bold promise to greatly enhance our food safety system, moving our approach into the 21st century, employing the best surveillance techniques available, and ensuring that we are doing all we can to prevent illness before it occurs."
Today, the Working Group announced specific steps designed to advance its core principles:
  • HHS and USDA are targeting salmonella contamination by developing tougher standards to protect the safety of eggs, poultry, and turkey.
  • To fight the threat of E. coli, USDA is stepping up enforcement in beef facilities and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is developing new industry guidance improving protections for leafy greens, melons, and tomatoes.
  • The Obama Administration is building a new national traceback and  response system including clearer industry guidance, a new unified incident command system, and improved use of technology to deliver individual food safety alerts to consumers. 
  • Finally, the Administration announced a plan to strengthen the organization of federal food safety functions, including the creation of new positions at key food safety agencies and a continuing oversight role for the Food Safety Working Group.
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 additional key findings and recommendations of the Food Safety Working Group click HERE.
Below is a list of expected attendees at today’s Food Safety Announcement, including representatives from consumer, industry, producer associations, public health, and academic organizations.
Vice President Joe Biden
Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack
Dr. Peggy Hamburg, Commissioner, FDA
Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, Deputy Commissioner, FDA
Melody Barnes, Director, Domestic Policy Council
Dr. John Holdren, Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy
Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT)
Representative John Dingell (D-MI)
Representative Bart Stupak (D-MI)
(in alphabetical order by last name)
Brent Baglien, ConAgra Foods
Andrew Bailey, National Turkey Federation
Scott Becker, Association of Public Health Laboratories
Georges Benjamin, American Public Health Association
Ellen Bloom, Consumers Union
Abigail Blunt, Kraft Foods
Melane Boyce, Confectioners Association
Thomas Bradshaw, American Frozen Food Institute
David Buck, Center for Foodborne Illness, Research & Prevention
Christine Bushway, Organic Trade Association
Jonathan Cantu, Government Accountability Project
Barry Carpenter, National Meat Association
Anthony Corbo, Food and Water Watch
Jo Ellen Deutsch– United Food & Commercial Workers International Union
Caroline DeWaal, Center for Science in the Public Interest
Orlo Ehart, NASDA
Cathleen Enright, Western Growers Association
Sandra Eskin, Georgetown University, Health Policy Institute
Scott Faber, Grocery Manufacturers of America
Gregory Ferrara, National Grocers Association
Anthony Flood, International Food Information Council
Molly Fogarty, Nestle
Randall Gordon, National Grain and Feed Association
Robert Green, United Egg Producers
Sally Greenberg, National Consumers League
Lisa Griffith, National Family Farm Coalition
Robert Guenther, United Fresh Produce Association
Margaret Henderson, National Fisheries Institute
James Hodges, American Meat Institute
Katherine Houston, Cargill, Inc.
Jonathan James, Allen Family Foods, Inc
Alice Johnson, ButterBall
G. Chandler Keys, JBS
Lonnie King, CDC
Barbara Masters, Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Bode Matz PC
Margaret Mellon, Union of Concerned Scientists
Joel Newman, American Feed Industry Association
Donna Norton, Mom’s Rising
Erik Olson, Mars
H. R. Bert Pena, Stinson Morrison Hecker LLP
Robert Pestronk, National Association of County and City Health Officials
Adam Reichardt, Association of State and Territorial Health Officials
Tanya Roberts, Center for Foodborne Illness, Research & Prevention
Welford Roberts, National Environmental Health Association
Donna Rosenbaum, S.T.O.P. - Safe Tables Our Priority
Marianne Rowden, American Association of Exporters and Importers
Ruth Saunders, International Dairy Foods Association
Bryan Silbermann, Produce Marketing Association
Brian Snyder, Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
Steven Steinhoff, Association of Food and Drug Officials
Michael Taylor, George Washington University, School of Public Health and Health Services
Mary Toker, General Mills, Inc.
Omar Vargas, Pepsi-Cola North America
Christopher Waldrop, Consumer Federation of America
Deborah White, Food Marketing Institute
Heather White, Environmental Working Group
Andrea Yabulonsky, ConAgra Foods