USDA Joins FDA Efforts on New Food Safety Regulations

USDA’s fresh produce chief will join FDA to help develop new food safety rules, as part of a cooperative initiative between FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The 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 working with the fruit and vegetable industry. Skelton has been with the Fresh Products Branch at AMS for more than 22 years, working in inspections, grading and certification, standardization, training, and 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.

“President Obama, like most Americans, wants immediate improvements in our food safety system,” said Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “As such, we are pulling together all our best resources -state and federal – to improve the safety of our foods and to work with growers protect and promote the health of our nation.”

“USDA is committed to working with our partners to ensure that Americans have access to safe, healthy, and nutritious food,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.  “Today’s announcement is another example the Obama Administration’s innovative and aggressive effort to strengthen protections against unsafe food and food-borne illness.”

Through the initiative, FDA is gathering information and seeking feedback from the fresh produce industry, including small and organic farmers, on the impact such rules may have on 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, FDA and USDA visited farms in North Carolina and will soon visit Florida.

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