Advertise in Print | Subscriptions
Published October 03, 2011, 07:31 PM

USDA to hold pre-harvest food safety summit in Washington

WASHINGTON — Agriculture Undersecretary for Food Safety Elisabeth Hagen said Sep. 28 the Agriculture Department will hold a public summit on pre-harvest food safety Nov. 9 in Washington.

By: Jerry Hagstrom, Special to Agweek

WASHINGTON — Agriculture Undersecretary for Food Safety Elisabeth Hagen said Sep. 28 the Agriculture Department will hold a public summit on pre-harvest food safety Nov. 9 in Washington.

“We’re not looking to go on the farm, but we have to sponsor the discussion,” Hagen said in a speech that was part of the Ogilvy Exchange food safety lecture series.

Earlier in the speech, Hagen noted that although USDA Food Safety Inspection Service’s jurisdiction begins in the slaughterhouse, the issue of food safety begins on the farm.

Agriculture Undersecretary for Food Safety Elisabeth Hagen

A thorough look

“Leading this true farm-to-fork effort, we think we have to be looking at food safety all the way through,” Hagen said. “We are not looking to go on the farm, we are not looking to regulate producers at FSIS, but everything that happens on the farm impacts what we do, it impacts the amount of risk that has to be handled throughout the system. We know we have a huge stake in improving, or finding avenues to improve pre-harvest food safety.

“We have to make people realize they have a stake in this, and I would say most of the producers we talk to are more than willing to participate in some kind of pre-harvest initiative,” she said.

“There are constraints, and we want to make sure the technologies we’re asking them to employ are going to make food safer and that they’re feasible in the various producer environments. We want to make sure the costs are manageable as well. We had a very good dialogue I would say over the last year on this issue. We’re looking forward to a public meeting on this issue. We want to bring people together, people who raise animals, the meatpackers, retail, consumers, everybody to talk about, ‘How can we be useful? How can government be useful on this? How can we move this forward? What type of things would be helpful?’”

Ranchers have resisted any on-farm role for FSIS as a regulator and inspector.

Hagen also noted that FSIS already has released E. coli guidance for beef slaughter establishments, summarizing what’s available in pre-harvest food safety technology. She also noted that FSIS has published a strategic plan that emphasizes what employees have to do to achieve the agency’s food safety mission.

Tags: