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, July 7, 2009 - 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.