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Making America’s Food Safety System Stronger

Last week some of the nation’s top leaders in food safety gathered at the Agricultural Outlook Forum in Arlington, Virginia, for a session called “Strengthening America’s Food Safety System.”

USDA’s Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Jerold Mande led the panel discussions. The wide-ranging conversation included Food Safety and Inspection Service Administrator Al Almanza, along with consumer advocates from the Consumer Federation of America and the Pew Health Group’s Food Safety Campaign, industry representatives from the National Meat Association and Cargill Inc., and state and federal public health officials.

To kick off the session, Mande outlined the three principles of the President’s Food Safety Working Group: prioritizing prevention of foodborne illness; strengthening surveillance and enforcement; and improving recovery and response when incidents occur.

Here are a few things that we’re doing at USDA every day to work toward reducing foodborne illnesses:

- In July, the Working Group released its Key Findings that included 15 key actions to improve the nation’s food safety.  We have completed over half and are on schedule to implement them all.

- Secretary Vilsack has made food safety research a high priority, including a new Institute for Food Safety Research and an expanded research budget.

- Later this year, USDA will launch the Public Health Information System, a dynamic new data analytics system that will revolutionize FSIS’s ability to detect and respond to foodborne hazards.

“We must do everything in our power to provide our citizens safe food,” Mande said, “starting with unprecedented cooperation among federal agencies, state partners, industry, and consumers.” He emphasized that this session showed this kind of effort.

If you’re not already, follow us on Twitter for the latest food safety tips and latest news and head over to FoodSafety.gov for comprehensive consumer food safety information from across government agencies.

Deputy Under Secretary Jerold Mande
Food Safety Inspection Service Deputy Under Secretary, Jerold Mande on the panel at the USDA Agricultural Outlook Forum.

By Craig Stoltz, Food Safety and Inspection Service, Web Manager

National Roundtable on Ongoing Opportunities for Latinos in Natural Resources at USDA

On Tuesday, February 23, 2010, USDA hosted a National Roundtable on Ongoing Opportunities for Latinos in Natural Resources at USDA in Washington, D.C.

Over 80 people, including 25 Latino/Hispanic community based organizations and community leaders gathered at the Whitten Building with officials from Office of the Secretary, Rural Development Mission Area (RD), Natural Resources and Environment Mission Area (NRE) and other agencies to discuss environmental and community issues impacting the Latino/Hispanic communities around the United States.  The excitement over the Latino issues was evident in the discussions, networking and development of new relationships that took place during the afternoon roundtable.

Oscar Gonzalez, Deputy Director, Intergovernmental Affairs opened the roundtable.  Carole Jett, Deputy Chief of Staff, addressed the participants and introduced Dallas Tonsager, Under Secretary, RD and Jay Jensen, Deputy Under Secretary, NRE.  “Your input in identifying issues, obstacles and opportunities are important to us and will be provided to the USDA agencies and the Office of the Secretary,” said Gonzales.

Almost everyone in attendance, whether a community based organization, farm group, government or the private sector, said they felt the Hispanic community is still lacking access to USDA information and services.  Roger Rivera, President, National Hispanic Environmental Council mentioned that “It is a new day at USDA under the leadership of Secretary Vilsack.  We appreciate his outreach to farmworkers, Hispanic Farmers and Ranchers, and today…Latino environmental leaders.”  The need for a streamlined, simplified job application processes for Federal jobs was highlighted.   Federal Government funding for environmental innovative projects and initiatives was identified as a major issue, as was a general lack of information about USDA agricultural programs, services and how and where to apply for those services. These issues, as well as several others, were discussed by a representative of each organization.

USDA officials discussed the resources that are invested around the country, including funding for community infrastructure and facilities, housing, broadband, biomass and conservation, and farming.  The USDA officials greatly appreciate the time and input offered by each participant.

Latino Roundtable Photo Latino Roundtable Meeting at USDA

Submitted by Jorge Comas, USDA Office of Communications.

Spanish version below:

Mesa Redonda Nacional Sobre las Oportunidades Que Ofrece USDA en Recursos Naturales para los Latinos

El Martes, 23 de Febrero de 2010, el USDA en Washingon, D.C. fue el patrocinador de una Reunión de Mesa Redonda Nacional Sobre las Oportunidades Que Ofrece USDA en Recursos Naturales para los Latinos.

Mas de 80 personas, incluyendo 25 representantes de organizaciones de la comunidad Latina/Hispana se reunieron en el Edificio Whitten localizado en el Departamento de Agricultura de los Estado Unidos en Washington, D.C.  Estas organizaciones se reunieron con oficiales de la oficina del Secretario de Agricultura, el Area de Misión para Desarollo Rural, el Area de Misión para Recursos Naturales y Ambiente y otras agencias para discutir asuntos ambientales y de la communidad que estan impactando la comunidad Latina/Hispana alrededor de los Estados Unidos.  Durante la reunión de mesa redonda de una tarde, la emoción de los participanes era evidente al discutir los asuntos, la comunicación entre los differentes grupos y el desarollo de nuevas relaciones.

El Sub Director de Asuntos Intergubernamentales, Oscar Gonzales comenzó la reunión.  La Asistente del Jefe de Personal de USDA, Carole Jett, le hablo a los participantes y presentó el Secretario Adjunto de Desarollo Rural, Dallas Tonsager y el Sub-Secretario Adjunto de Recursos Naturales y Ambiente, Jay Jensen.  “Sus recomendaciones al identificar los asuntos, obstaculos y oportunidades son importantes para nosotros.  Las recomendaciones seran compartidas con las agencias de USDA y la Oficina del Secretario”, dijo Gonzales.

Casi todos los participantes de la reunión, organizaciones de la comunidad, grupos agrícolas, del gobierno o del sector privado , indicaron que todavía en la comunidad Hispana existe la falta de acceso a información y servicios ofrecidos por el USDA.  El Presidente del National Hispanic Environmental Council, Roger Rivera indico que, “Este es un nuevo día en el USDA bajo el liderato de el Secretario Vilsack.  Nosotros apreciamos los trabajos de promoción y alcance que el Secretario ha hecho con los trabajadores agrícolas, agricultores y ganaderos Hispanos, y hoy… con los lideres ambientales Latinos.”  La necesidad de modernizar y simplificar el proceso de solicitudes para trabajo Federal fue resaltada.  Los fondos federales para proyectos e iniciativas ambientales innovadoras fue identificado como un asunto primordial, también la falta de información sobre los programas y servicios agrícolas del USDA y como y donde solicitar estos servicios.  Éstos y varios otros asuntos fueron discutidos por los representantes de las organizaciones.

Los oficiales representando al USDA hablaron sobre los recursos y fondos invertidos atravez de la nación, inlcuyendo fondos para infraestructura y facilidades para la comunidad, vivienda, comunicaciones de banda amplia, biomasa, conservación y agricultura.  Los oficiales del USDA le dan las más expresivas gracias por su tiempo, participación e información ofrecida a cada participante.

Sometido por Jorge Comas, USDA Office of Communications.