Saturday, March 14, 2009

Food Safety: No Longer a "Policy Orphan"

March 14, 2009

Last December, as President Obama was introducing his prospective Cabinet nominees, we worried that food safety, once again, was being overlooked in the scramble to address the country's other pressing needs – the economic and banking crisis, health care accessibility, the education system, and the war on terror.

It took a billion-dollar Salmonella outbreak to get there, but food safety has joined these other issues on the Presidential Front Burner.

Today, in a weekly address devoted entirely to food safety, President Obama announced the creation of a Food Safety Working Group, to be chaired jointly by the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Secretary of Agriculture. The President has charged this new Working Group, which will include senior officials from HHS, USDA, and other departments and agencies, to "... advise the President on improving coordination throughout the government, examining and upgrading food safety laws, and enforcing laws that will keep the American people safe."

During his address, President Obama also announced that the Department of Agriculture is closing the remaining regulatory loopholes, which have allowed so-called "downer" cattle (diseased and lame cattle) to enter the food supply. And he is injecting one billion dollars into the FDA to strengthen the US food safety system by adding food inspectors and modernizing FDA lab facilities.

Today's announcements by President Obama give us some hope that – for the first time in eight years – food safety finally has a friend in the White House. 

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