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The Grocery Manufacturers Association and other trade and consumer groups are applauding President Obama’s selection of Dr. Margaret Hamburg, New York City’s former health commissioner, and Joshua Sharfstein, Baltimore’s current health commissioner, as commissioner and deputy commissioner, respectively, of the Food and Drug Administration, as well as the new administration’s formation of a White House Food Safety Working Group.
“The FDA is America’s food safety watch dog, and the president’s appointment of these two prominent public health professionals is a clear signal that this administration has placed a priority on bolstering FDA’s food safety role,” said GMA president and CEO Pamela G. Bailey. “In addition, we support the president’s creation of a White House Food Safety Working Group to facilitate better coordination among federal agencies as well as to review and improve the nation’s food safety laws.” Bailey added that reform and modernization of the “extremely complex” 21st-century food supply has been long in coming.
“It is imperative that we provide FDA with the resources it needs to increase food safety inspections, to hire and retain scientific experts, and to bolster its laboratory and information technology capabilities,” said Bailey. In addition, she said GMA is seeking new authorities for FDA that will enhance the agency’s oversight role and require every food company to have a comprehensive food safety plan in place.
“There are two critical elements of our food safety system. First, because consumer confidence is the foundation of everything we do, manufacturers take food safety very seriously and invest their reputations and resources in producing safe products. Second,” Bailey continued, “strong government oversight is a critical and necessary part of our nation’s food safety net. Both industry and government have unique and important roles to play when it comes to food safety. We look forward to continuing to work with the Obama administration and the U.S. Senate and House to enact meaningful reforms that will enhance the FDA’s watch oversight role, as well as put into place additional reforms that keep our food safe.”
Kathy Means, VP of government relations & public affairs for the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) echoed GMA’s anticipatory sentiments about working with the new FDA chiefs and strengthening the food safety net.
“This is a very interesting time for FDA,” Means told Progressive Grocer. It’s a time when PMA sees significant “potential for change and improvement, as well as for working together on priorities that both the industry and the FDA share, which is to make sure we have a safe food supply and that nobody gets sick.”
In related news, the American Meat Institute (AMI) welcomed news of USDA’s final rule that will prohibit the processing of “downer cows” -- cattle that becomes non-ambulatory after passing federal veterinary inspection. AMI had petitioned for such a rule last year, and the industry has been voluntarily complying with it despite the fact that it wasn’t final.
Previously, if cattle passed veterinary inspection at a plant and subsequently became non-ambulatory, these cattle could be reinspected to determine if they were fit for processing. Veterinarians had the authority to permit them to be processed as “suspects” and then reinspected post-mortem. The new rule ends that option.
Additionally, the final rule requires that establishments notify inspection program personnel when cattle become non-ambulatory disabled after passing the ante-mortem, or pre-slaughter, inspection.
“We are pleased that USDA has acted favorably on a petition submitted by AMI and other industry organizations in April 2008,” noted AMI president J. Patrick Boyle. “This rule codifies voluntary industry practice since we submitted the petition nearly a year ago.”