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USDA’s Unwavering Commitment to Food Safety

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.

6 Responses to “USDA’s Unwavering Commitment to Food Safety”

  1. Bill says:

    FDA should take the place of EVERY USDA “food safety” person! USDA cannot even shut down a plant in violation of anything WITHOUT FDA! So, cut through the chase and give the responsibility to FDA!

  2. Jim Bynum says:

    The best way to protect our food supply is to reverse the 30 year old USDA, FDA and EPA policy of spreading pathogens on agricultural land!

    Land Application of Municipal Sewage Sludge For The Production of Fruits and Vegetables, A Statement of Federal Policy and Guidance — Signed by EPA, FDA, USDA
    EPA is responsible for maintaining the integrity of our environment, FDA is responsibility for maintaining the integrity of our food products, and USDA is responsible for maintaining the integrity of our agricultural production. All three agree that heavy metals, toxic organic compounds, and pathogenic microorganisms are a great concern.

    EPA, FDA and USDA states that the safety of food grown on sludge is assured as long as the guidance is followed.
    There is a caveat, the “government can not offer any indemnity against product recall, seizure, or other enforcement actions, — However, the risk of such enforcement actions would be no greater than the risks associated with normal farming and processing practice.” The basic guidance was in the 1979 solid waste regulation Part 257. The policy “recognizes that pathogen survival is greater in warm, moist environments, than in extremely arid or colder environments.”
    http://thewatchers.us/EPA/1981-policy-EPA-USDA-FDA.pdf

  3. Jan Dietrick says:

    What is safe about rubber stamping release of Roundup Ready crops that result in ubiquitous and increasing levels of glyphosate and its major degradation product, aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA), in air and rain that is showing up in humans in higher levels that is allowed in drinking water? Glyphosate is used in almost all agricultural areas of the United States, and the agricultural use of glyphosate has increased from less than 10 000 Mg in 1992 to more than 80 000 Mg in 2007. The greatest intensity of glyphosate use is in the midwestern United States, where applications are predominantly to genetically modified corn and soybeans. The characterization of the transport of glyphosate and its degradate aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA) on a watershed scale is lacking.

    A German university study has found significant concentrations of glyphosate in the urine samples of city dwellers. The analysis of the urine samples apparently found that all had concentrations of glyphosate at 5 to 20-fold the limit for drinking water. As well as being used increasingly widely in food production,Once in the soil, glyphosate is later immobilized through the chelation of cations, and is therefore very stable and not easily degraded. However, phosphorus (including phosphorus fertilisers) can desorb the herbicide, making it active once again in the soil.Consistent with what is known about the role of micronutrients and glyphosate, the levels of key minerals have been measured in transgenic RR soybeans and found to be lower than those in isogenic non-transgenic varieties. Manganese was reduced by as much as 45 %, while iron was reduced by 49 % [5]. Similar deficiencies in mineral content have been found in non-GM varieties, suggesting that the glyphosate, and not the RR transgene, is responsible for reducing
    mineral availability [6].

    Glyphosate reduces photosynthesis, water uptake, amino acid production as well
    as lignin, a molecule conferring mechanical strength of the plant and crucial
    for conducting water through plant stems. The conversion of US agriculture to monochemical herbicide practice has resulted in the extensive use of glyphosate herbicides. Coincidentally, farmers have been witnessing deterioration in the health of corn, soybean, wheat and other crops, and epidemics of diseases in small grain crops. All are associated with the extensive use of glyphosate, which has increased further since the introduction of glyphosate-tolerant, Roundup Ready (RR) crops. Weeds are increasingly adapting to Monsanto’s genetically engineered line of crops that rely on the use of a different herbicide, glyphosate, which Monsanto markets as Round-up®. This is leading competitors, like Dow, and proponents of GE agriculture to look for weed killing alternatives. Herbicides more toxic than Round-up® appear to be next up in the pipeline.

    2,4-D, a systemic herbicide, is used on many types of broadleaf weeds. It is a chlorinated phenoxy compound that has caused serious eye and skin irritation among agricultural workers. According to information compiled by Cornell University, rats fed 2,4-D produced “fetuses with abdominal cavity bleeding and increased mortality.” And 2,4-D may cause infertility, birth defects, organ toxicity and neurological effects.

    As Dow’s GE corn is resistant to the herbicide, it is possible that the plant may absorb 2,4-D residues into its structure, and then transfer those chemicals, or their related metabolites, to livestock and humans consuming corn or milk, meat and eggs produced from the GE crop.

    The USDA also just announced the proposed approval for a new strain of drought resistant corn, and a soybean, Soymega™, both from Monsanto. The Obama White House appears to be giving Monsanto and Dow, and other biotechnology corporations, everything they want while the public, according to polls, is overwhelmingly concerned about genetic engineering and losing control of our diets.

    Now tell me how does this remotely paint a picture of concern for food safety or water safety or environmental conservation? What is Dave White’s position on this? How can he and Kathleen Merrigan continue to pretend that their department is working for the people and the land and the future of agriculture? It’s obvious that Secretaries Vilsack and Jackson and the Governor of Minnesota are getting their bread buttered by interests that are not public interests. When are all the people that work for them finally going to say the emperor has no clothes.

  4. Frank says:

    Nearly 70 full time employees at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Reseach Center in Weslaco are being reassigned to other facilities.

    They will have about five months to show up to their new job and location or they will be fired.

    Back in October 2011, the USDA announced it would shut the center down.

    All the full time employees are being reassigned to other centers across the United States.

    They have until June to show up to their new posts.

    But the move has angered many workers at the center.

    Many of them told Action 4 News that they have families rooted in the Rio Grande Valley.

    They also might end up having to do different jobs within the agency.

    The employees said that add the move is unfair and will have a deep impact in the Valley.

    The reassignments come at a time when the USDA identified the citrus greening disease and issued a quarantine at a San Juan citrus grove.

    Researchers will spend the next week determining the extent of the disease.

    Employees said the research center is at the forefront of the battling the boil weevil, livestock ticks and agricultural diseases from Mexico.

    They said it’s vital work researchers at the center are currently doing and many employees say will leave the valley Vulnerable.

    The center will close on June 15 but has already fired about 40 students because of the closure.

    Gee I wonder how much assistance the rest of USDA personnel getting? No lay offs…

  5. Sharon Johnson says:

    I hear all this talk from the President about creating jobs. Do you realize that streamlining the plants will put over 1000 inspectors out of work? No matter what your test plants have shown you on water isn’t necessarily the truth. Plants employees will not be able to inspect birds the way the inspectors do now when the line speed is increased to 200 birds a minute. Inspectors have problems now if the birds are badly infected at line speeds of 140 birds a minute. Chicken will no longer be safe to eat no matter what your reports are showing. This will cause more illnesses not to mention the unemployment rate increasing due to all these people without jobs. The public needs to know the truth about what diseases/infections will be overlooked and what will be getting in our food supply. Nothing about it is safe.

  6. rwilymz says:

    Sharon: with almost no exception, chicken that is not outright rancid is rendered safe to eat by completely cooking it. That is the biggest issue with the invented issue of “food safety”. Back when people had to know how to treat their food or die, they learned very very very quickly how to treat their food so they didn’t die from it.

    Then the government said “We can do that for you … and do it BETTER” and the result is that people do NOT know how to treat their food any longer, because, well, the government is doing it for us, and they know what they’re doing … right?

    The answer is: no they do not. As has been pointed out above: the government is not responsible when their procedures and policies fail, and if you’ve been paying attention, they fail at an alarming rate: almost constantly.

    Food inspection should be limited to removing rancid food from the line. People will learn quickly enough how to treat their food to avoid problems with the rest of it. Because the government canNOT to it for us, nor can they do it better. The entire human history of government is all the proof anyone needs to understand that.

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