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USDA Joins FDA Efforts on New Food Safety Regulations

Agencies unite on outreach to produce industry

Published: Wednesday, October 7, 2009 - 05:30

USDA’s fresh produce chief will join the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help develop new food safety rules, as part of a cooperative initiative between the FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Today’s announcement comes amid beefed up outreach efforts with key agriculture and safe food stakeholders to better share and exchange produce safety “best practices” and ideas.

Leanne Skelton, chief of the fresh products branch of the USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS), has extensive experience in the fruit and vegetable industry through her 22 years with the branch working in inspections, grading and certification, standardization, training, and in managing the Branch’s financial and information technology activities. Skelton will be on detail with the FDA for six months as she helps the FDA develop new safety regulations for produce.

Through the initiative, FDA is gathering information from the fresh produce industry, including small and organic farmers, and seeking feedback concerning how the new safety regulations may effect their businesses and lives. In addition, USDA and FDA officials have been traveling together to meet with farmers and local food safety officials. Most recently, the FDA and USDA visited farms in North Carolina and will soon visit Florida.

“We are delighted that the FDA sought USDA’s counsel and cooperation as they tackle the challenges of ensuring the safety and availability of fresh produce and healthy foods,” says AMS administrator Rayne Pegg. “The USDA and the FDA have joined together on listening sessions and farm tours, and are eager to develop a system of regulation that will work for American families and the growers.”

FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg iterated the agency’s commitment to listen and learn from all those with a role in protecting the safety of the food system.

“It is vitally important for us to hear the ideas, concerns, and experiences directly from local growers around the country as we develop rules to help protect the safety of fresh produce from the farm to the table,” says Hamburg. “We will be that much more effective by working closely with farmers, our USDA partners, and with state and local food safety agencies.”

The detail and the joint outreach efforts further underscore the two agency’s commitment to work cooperatively on food safety.

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for protecting the public health by assuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, medical devices, our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation. The FDA is also responsible for advancing the public health by helping to speed innovations that make medicines and foods more effective, safer, and more affordable, and helping the public get the accurate, science-based information they need to use medicines and foods to improve their health.