Friday, July 31, 2009

Agencies coordinate attacks on food pathogens

The Obama administration is rolling out food-safety measures described as a shift toward handling food-pathogen challenges proactively.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that USDA's Food Safety Inspection Service is issuing guidance for routine inspections of bench trim — steak cuttings used in ground beef — for E. coli bacteria.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, meanwhile, published a proposal for produce-handling guidelines in the Federal Register today, starting a 90-day public comment period.

FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg says the guidelines will be followed in two years by enforceable standards. They represent a strategy shift at FDA, says Hamburg, "from a food safety system that often has been reactive to one that is based on preventing foodborne hazards," according to a USDA statement announcing the dual-agency actions.

The Delaware-based Produce Marketing Association says FDA's proposed standards are less strict than California's Leafy Green Products Handler Marketing Agreement or Florida's standards for tomato handling, says The Packer.

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