Major grocer wants USDA rules applied to other foods

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By Janie Gabbett on 4/3/2009


One of the nation's largest grocery chains wants USDA's risk-based surveillance, inspection and enforcement model for meat and poultry safety to be expanded to the raw food products currently regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.

"Specifically we propose taking the successful risk-based USDA surveillance, inspection and enforcement model that has helped reduce the incidence of salmonella in poultry and has highlighted the challenges associated with reducing E. coli O157:H7 in ground beef and expanding it to other agricultural commodities like spinach and other leafy greens, tomatoes, fresh fruits, peanuts, pistachios, grains and other raw agricultural commodities," Supervalu Inc. Vice President for Food Safety John Hanlin told the House agriculture committee on Thursday.

"In other words, expand USDA's risk-based inspection system to include commodities that today receive minimal inspection due to budget challenges at FDA," he added.

He suggested a risk-based model could work in a variety of ways. One would be to create a single food agency. Another would be for USDA to regulate all raw commodities while FDA focused on further processors.

President Barack Obama has named a food safety working group chaired by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Health and Human Services nominee Kathleen Sebelius to study how best to revamp U.S. food safety policy. Vilsack has championed expanding USDA's risk-based approach beyond the agency. FDA has been criticized in the wake of the recent peanut-related salmonella outbreak for its lack of consistent oversight.

Minneapolis-based Supervalu operates more than 2,500 retail stores, 35 distribution centers and employs over 190,000 people.


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