Vice President Biden, Secretary Sebelius, and I just concluded an event to announce the initial findings of the Food Safety Working Group. We were joined by a group of public health professionals and others interested in food safety. Many of these individuals were critical in contributing to this report through their participation at breakout groups when the Group held a Listening Session in May.
Nearly 1 in 4 Americans get sick every year due to foodborne illness and an estimated 5,000 die from consuming contaminated food. This status quo is not acceptable. That is why I am very pleased that the Obama administration is taking such quick and decisive to improve our food safety system.
The fact sheet and key findings released today identify core food safety principles that will guide the development of a modern, coordinated food safety system focused on prevention, effective enforcement and quick response to any outbreaks. USDA will work with other federal agencies to create a unified incident command system and utilize new technologies to better communicate critical food safety information. We will work even more intensely with our partners than ever before and work to improve the way we communicate with consumers, beginning with http://www.FoodSafety.gov.
In addition to these important activities, USDA will immediately take additional measures to improve to the safety of the U.S. food supply. USDA will reduce the prevalence of Salmonella in poultry, step up enforcement in beef facilities to fight E. Coli, and help build a National Traceback and Response System so that we are better prepared to discover a contamination source and eliminate product from the marketplace when an outbreak does occur.
After the main event, Secretary Sebelius and I took part in a live chat session with people via Facebook. I have to say, it was a first for me and it was great to talk with people all across the country who are interested in a wide range of topics surrounding the production, inspection and consumption of the food supply. We also took a few questions about local and young farmers and I look forward to sharing more about what USDA is doing on that front including the People’s Garden and Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program.
I am continually impressed and inspired at the degree of interest and passion consumers have in agriculture and food safety issues. Let us know what you’d like to hear more about and let’s continue this important discussion.