Former USDA type Raymond hits the right notes on his blog; says White House Food Safety Working Group is pulling the strings

In an email alert from USDA’s FSIS dated January 9, 2010, an attached news release said USDA and HHS were partnering with DHS to open a center devoted to ensuring safety of foods imported into the United States.  

The release quotes HHS Secretary Sebelius as saying ,"With so much food coming from abroad, we must do all we can to ensure that it conforms to the same safety standards as our own food safety systems."  Oops. Last I looked almost every outbreak from meat or poultry was a domestic product.

But here is what I consider the real news in this release. This new joint center was created simply on the recommendation of the White House Food Safety Working Group. If the WHFSWG is that powerful, that three agencies change their tactics almost overnight when the Group recommends something, then here are a few ideas for recommendations from the WHFSWG:

1. Recommend that USDA find an Undersecretary for Food Safety.
2. Recommend that she declare non-O157:H7 STEC to be an adulterant in ground beef.
3. Recommend that any beef product going into ground beef has a representative sample taken for E coli O157:H7 first.
4. Recommend that zero tolerance for Listeria in cheeses remain at zero tolerance, and enforce it so that cross contamination of deli meats that support growth will be reduced.
5. Recommend that USDA FSIS regulate ALL animals and their products, including fish, sea food, shell eggs and dairy, and that FDA regulate all canning operations.
6. Recommend that FSIS tell us what went wrong at National Steak and Poultry requiring four days worth of blade tenderized steaks to be recalled. If they are at fault.
7. Recommend that Chairwoman DeLauro be advised of this by the new Undersecretary so that a law that penalizes the whole industry is not passed.
8. Recommend that the Chairwoman be asked by the new Undersecretary to seek statutory change to allow proper legal actions when plants do sicken Americans through faulty practices.

Here’s former Kansas governor Sebelius on Colbert, and even though she’s an avid jazz fan, which I think is the music that plays in hell, we transplanted Kansans can agree on some things.

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
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Meat safety chief: Increase E. coli testing

Philip Brasher of the Des Moines Register reported from Seattle this morning that USDA’s undersecretary for food safety, Richard Raymond, said he’s determined to increase testing for E. coli contamination before he leaves office, adding,

"We need to address this tougher problem and take some moves there to help protect the American public."

Raymond, a physician who was formerly the chief medical officer in Nebraska, said results from some public health laboratories shows illnesses form non-O157 strains of E. coli are “at least as prevalent” as O157 illnesses. He said the non-O157 strains are harder to detect.

I’m at the same conference, Who’s Minding the Store? – The Current State of Food Safety and How It Can Be Improved, hosted by lawyer and barfblog sugar daddy Bill Marler.

Washington  Governor Christine Gregoire (right) gave the food safety luncheon address.

I chatted with the affable Dr. Raymond after his presentation, and asked him if USDA would consider using video cameras to augment veterinary inspection in slaughterhouses. He said, "ask me after next Thursday."

Raymond, and several of the other speakers stated that the political-media focus on a single food inspection agency was a distraction.

I agree. Whatever is done, it should reduce the number of sick people. That’s the measure that counts, and one where progress has stalled.