Ensuring that Americans have access to safe, nutritious food is USDA’s top priority. Yesterday afternoon, USDA introduced plans to modernize and accelerate service delivery in all areas of the Department by introducing our Blueprint for Stronger Service. The plan will help USDA and rural America preserve and strengthen the significant investments we have all made to American agriculture over the past three years. It takes a realistic view of the needs of American agriculture in a challenging budget climate, and lays out USDA’s plans to strengthen service in all areas, particularly in ensuring the safety of America’s food supply.
The work of USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, or FSIS, is critical to the safety of our food supply. As the public health regulatory agency within USDA, FSIS has nearly 10,000 employees scattered throughout the country, working in slaughterhouses, processing facilities, laboratories, or conducting surveillance. Each job is critical to public health. Through their inspection, testing or surveillance duties, FSIS staff make sure America’s meat, poultry and processed egg products are safe, wholesome, and correctly labeled.
While the Blueprint for Stronger Service helps to improve the customer experience through use of innovative technologies and business solutions—such as FSIS’ new comprehensive data analytics, PHIS, that helps FSIS inspectors stay ahead of food safety—the plan does absolutely nothing to impede on the important work of FSIS staff in the field. In fact:
- There will be no reduction in our inspection presence, and no increased risk to consumers as a result of this announcement;
- FSIS has a statutory obligation to be in every single processing plant every single day, with an unwavering commitment to protecting American consumers; and
- The offices closing are staffed by management support personnel, not by inspectors. Inspectors will continue to do their jobs, and the offices that support them will decrease from 15 to 10. Management personnel will continue to support inspectors from regional locations.
USDA’s food safety personnel are just as committed and present today and tomorrow as they were yesterday. Whether inspecting on the line, computer programming, running samples at a lab, helping to develop policy, or educating consumers, our food safety staff all share a common mission to protect the public from foodborne illness. President Obama, Secretary Vilsack, I and everyone at FSIS are committed to this mission every day.
As we move forward, USDA will continue to find ways to modernize its services, improve the customer experience, and ensure a safe and abundant food supply.