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Records Show More Access to Federal Food Officials

The Obama Administration’s top food safety officials appear to be meeting more often with people outside the federal government than they did earlier in their tenure.

The Food Safety News analysis of the public calendars of top officials from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) cannot be definitive.  However, it seems clear there has been a trend toward more meetings with people outside the agencies.

In the second half of the year, Commissioner Margaret Hamburg traveled to China, England, and Germany.

She went to Berlin to speak to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development on Sept. 27 and to London to speak the Royal Society of Medicine, Academy of Medical Sciences, and Summit of the Heads of Medicines Agency, all on Oct. 13.

The FDA Commissioner did some specific food safety business during her August trip to China.   Her delegation met in Beijing with an official of China’s Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection, and Quarantine, named Pu Changcheng. 

Hamburg’s group also met with Chinese state FDA official Shao Mingli in Beijing, and the Shanghai Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau’s Xu Jinji in Shanghai.

Back from China, Hamburg scheduled a “site visit and meeting regarding food safety” in Salinas, CA with U.S. Rep. Sam Farr on Sept. 3.

According to Farr’s office, the California Democrat took the Commissioner to Santa Paz Farms to see strawberry harvesting techniques, including technologies and practices to ensure food safety.  

At FDA, most meetings with outsiders about food safety involve Michael R. Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods.

Some of the highlights of his schedule have included:

— an Aug. 4 food safety meeting with four representatives of the National Environmental Health Association.

— an Aug 6 teleconference with Kellogg Co. officials.

— an Aug. 10 meeting on front of packaging labeling with a Grocery Manufacturing Association delegation.

— an Oct 15 meeting with the Union of Concerned Scientists.

—  a Sept. 2 Gulf seafood safety meeting with representatives of Food & Water Watch, Consumers Union, Center for Science in Public Interest, Consumer Federation of America, and National Consumer League.

FDA’s calendars for its top public official are current through Oct. 29.  At FSIS, the most recent calendars are through July 31.  In the two most recent months available, for June and July 2010, FSIS officials do not show any records of foreign travel and most meetings were held in Washington D.C.

Jerold R. Mande, Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety, has taken to holding separate monthly meetings with industry and consumer representatives.  Who is involved in those groups is not disclosed.

Other food safety meetings Mande reported included:

— a June 10 with Partnership for Food Safety Education representatives.

— a June 17 with the Ad Council’s Kate Emmanuel about food safety.

— a June 29 & 30-with Ad Council Executive Committee to present campaign proposal.

— a July 19 with representatives of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease Foundation and Consumer Federation of America.

FSIS Administrator Al Almanza met with representatives of the National Turkey Federation on two food safety subjects, Salmonella and labeling, on June 3.

Almanza also met on June 10 with Dale Moore, himself a former top Ag official both on the Hill and at USDA, about food safety.   Moore is now a registered lobbyist working for Policy Directions Inc., which has a long list of clients with both FDA and FSIS concerns.

The FSIS head also met with Steve Pretanik from the National Chicken Council about food safety on June 21 and with Ann Wells from the North American Meat Processors Association on June 22 about validation policies for E. coli O157:H7.

UPDATE: Jerold R. Mande is Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety, not the Under Secretary as was originally reported in this story.

© Food Safety News
  • Once again, FSN documents the unbroken access of industrial ag AND supporters of S 510 to Hamburg and Taylor. In the several times that FSN has reported these, I can’t remember a single meeting with anyone from the either sustainable ag or local, healthy food movements.
    I do know of one site visit by Taylor and others from the FDA at the request of Sen. Burr. I have been told by one of his hosts that it was clear neither Taylor nor his associates had any experience nor knowledge of what small sustainable farm actually is.
    Taylor’s inability to accept information contradicting what he “knows” to be true was well demonstrated by an exchange in response to his inaccurate statement that S 510 was restricted to food in interstate commerce. When Roland McReynolds, Executive Director of Carolina Farm Stewardship Assn. pointed out that HR 2749 had such a restriction but S 510 did not, Taylor declared that he “knew” there was. About 2 months later, he told Commissioner Hamburg the same thing at the Senate HELP Committee hearing. She commented that she was receiving “expert counsel” and then proceeded to repeat his inaccurate statement.
    What good is access when the official’s mind is made up, contains inaccurate “facts” and is closed to additional information?

  • Doc Raymond

    I know it was unintentional, but this story has elevated Jerold Mande to the level of Undersecretary for Food Safety at the USDA. The Undersecretary, now Senate confirmed, is Dr. Elisabeth Hagen. Mande is, and has been, the Deputy Undersecretary.
    And I don’t know that he has “taken” to meeting monthly with the Safe Food Coalition as much as the meetings have simply continued since the previous Administration. The attendees include representatives from the Consumer Federation of America, Center for Science in the Public’s Interest, Food and Water Watch, Consumers Union and Save Tables Our Priority.

  • Once again, FSN documents the unbroken access of industrial ag AND supporters of S 510 to Hamburg and Taylor. In the several times that FSN has reported these, I can’t remember a single meeting with anyone from the either sustainable ag or local, healthy food movements.
    I do know of one site visit by Taylor and others from the FDA at the request of Sen. Burr. I have been told by one of his hosts that it was clear neither Taylor nor his associates had any experience nor knowledge of what small sustainable farm actually is.
    Taylor’s inability to accept information contradicting what he “knows” to be true was well demonstrated by an exchange in response to his inaccurate statement that S 510 was restricted to food in interstate commerce. When Roland McReynolds, Executive Director of Carolina Farm Stewardship Assn. pointed out that HR 2749 had such a restriction but S 510 did not, Taylor declared that he “knew” there was. About 2 months later, he told Commissioner Hamburg the same thing at the Senate HELP Committee hearing. She commented that she was receiving “expert counsel” and then proceeded to repeat his inaccurate statement.
    What good is access when the official’s mind is made up, contains inaccurate “facts” and is closed to additional information?