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Secretary's Column: Ensuring a Safe Food Supply for Americans

Posted by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in Health and Safety
Feb 21, 2017

Often during the holiday season, we take time to reconnect with family and friends over a meal. We're able to do so because hardworking folks in rural America deliver the most abundant and affordable food supply on earth.

It's also the safest food supply - an achievement made possible by a wide range of skilled, dedicated people.

It all starts with our growers and processors, who are always asking how they can produce a safer product. They have the support of USDA staff at more than 6,000 plants around the country and at U.S. ports of entry. These experts inspect a wide range of food products before they're sent to the grocery store.

The Obama Administration has worked hard to strengthen our food safety efforts. Four years ago we created the President's Food Safety Working Group - which has brought together experts from across government and industry to improve food safety.

Since then, we've expanded testing of raw beef products to prevent dangerous pathogens from entering the food supply; in fact, new enforcement measures to detect additional strains of E. Coli began in March 2012.

USDA expects to prevent 25,000 more foodborne illnesses annually thanks to tougher standards we set for Salmonella and new standards for Campylobacter which will reduce the occurrence of these pathogens in poultry.

We've invested tens of millions of dollars on cutting-edge food safety research. And we’re better coordinated than ever, thanks to a new Public Health Information System. This system allows us to track emerging trends, keeping us ahead of food safety threats and allowing us to take proactive steps to solve problems.

Finally, we are helping share information with consumers. Raw meat and poultry now include nutrition labels so Americans can make better-informed choices at the grocery store. Through our expanded “Ask Karen” web page, folks have a chance to get advice directly from a food safety expert.  Consumers can visit to use this tool and to learn more about preventing foodborne illness.

By preventing food contamination, we can save businesses and taxpayers from the costs of food recalls. We can help maintain the good name of American agriculture around the world.  And most important of all, we can keep families safe from foodborne illnesses.

This holiday season, I encourage Americans to stay informed about food safety as they enjoy time with family and friends. I also hope everyone will join me in thanking the farmers who grow our food, and the dedicated Federal employees who help keep it safe.

For an audio version of this column, click here.

Category/Topic: Health and Safety

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Dave Sills
Dec 08, 2012

Dear Mr. Secretary,
I am responding to your scathing lecture to American farmers. I farm 500 acres of rice in California. Regulations here are excessive and punitive. Often, local County Ag Commissioners will write up citations over such items as typographical errors on use reports or notices of intent. There is no way to fight these due to the CDFA regulations that state"The director of the Department of Pesticide Regulations must rule in a light most favorable to the County Agricultural Commissioner". Is this due process? Additionally, here in California, the California Air Resources Board IS looking at regulating dust from implement activities while producing food and fiber.

Please refrain from giving us a lecture from Washington D.C. where government continues to grow disproportionately large vs. anything in our private sector.

Dave Sills
Sacramento, CA.

Gerard Gilliland
Dec 10, 2012

I wrote a letter to Secretary Vilsack. I think this blog would be a good place to send it to him. It fits in the concept "Farm to Table" that I see on your site. Would you please send this link to him: I do want him (and you as part of his staff) to read it. And I would most appreciate a response.
Thank you,
Gerard Gilliland

Jim Mork
Dec 14, 2012

Food sent from abroad is a huge unsolved problem, such as the tuna scrapings from India that were shipped via Japan.