USDA, FDA Unite to Develop New Produce Food Safety Rules

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USDA, FDA Unite to Develop New Produce Food Safety Rules

Amid ongoing efforts among agriculture and safe food stakeholders to exchange produce safety best practices and ideas, USDA’s fresh produce chief will join FDA to help develop new food safety rules as part of a cooperative initiative between the agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Leanne Skelton, chief of the Fresh Products branch of the USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS), will be on detail with the FDA for six months as she helps the FDA develop new safety regulations for produce. With 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.

“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 to protect and promote the health of our nation.”

Officials from both FDA and USDA applaud the detail and joint outreach efforts that they say further underscore the two agencies’ commitment to work cooperatively on food safety.

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.

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 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,” she said. “We will be that much more effective by working closely with farmers, our USDA partners, and with state and local food safety agencies.”