James Marsden, top food safety official for Chipotle Mexican Grill, and Dr. Elisabeth Hagen, who joined the Denver-based burrito chain’s Food Safety Advisory Board in January, met on June 1 with top officials at USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.
Hagen was USDA under secretary for food safety from 2010 to 2013. Her return with Marsden to her former offices in the Jamie L. Whitten Building on Independence Avenue in Washington D.C. was to update FSIS on Chipotle’s food safety initiatives.
Al Almanza, acting deputy under secretary for food safety and FSIS administrator, Carmen Rottenberg, deputy administrator, David Goldman, assistant administrator, and Matthew Michael, director, were on hand to hear about the Chipotle initiatives.
The fast casual Mexican restaurant chain brought on food safety heavyweights, including Marsden and Hagen, after its was plagued by back-to-back outbreaks from multiple pathogens during the second half of 2015.
The meeting was disclosed on the FSIS public calendar maintained to track when top food safety officials conduct meetings with persons outside the federal government. The Under Secretary and Deputy Under Secretary from the Office of Food Safety and the Administrator and Deputy Administrator of FSIS self- report their meetings, which are in turn made public about one month after they occur.
Also on June 1, Almanza reports meeting privately with Kenneth Petersen, senior vice president for quality assurance, food safety, and regulatory affairs, for the OSI Group. The topic was listed as “food safety update.” Before joining the global OSI, with 60 facilities in 16 counties, and working for IEH Laboratories, Peterson was in charge of FSIS operations.
Ashley Peterson from the National Chicken Council and Bob O’Conner from Foster Farms met with Almanza, Rottenberg, and assistant FSIS administrators Roberta Wagner and Willam “Bill” Smith on June 8. The topic of the gathering was poultry performance standards and sampling frequency.
Almanza and Rottenberg hosted a delegation representing the Catfish Farmers of America and its lawyer and lobbyist on June 14. The meeting focused on how FSIS authority over catfish inspection has gone since the task was taken over by USDA from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration two years ago.
Almanza held another private meeting on June 14 when he met with Joe Harris, president and chief executive of the Southwest Meat Association. Enforcement actions and establishment responsibilities were on the agenda. Almanza is scheduled to speak at the Southwest Meat Association’s summer meeting this Friday near San Antonio.
Next up was a June 15 meeting with seafood industry representatives that involved Almanza, Rottenberg and Cara LeConte, the FSIS chief of staff. Attending from the seafood industry were people from Harlon’s LA Fish, the Congressional Seafood Co., Steel City Seafood, Armory’s Seafood, Nixon Seafood, and O’Bier’s Seafood.
Also on June 15, the same FSIS trio held routine monthly meetings for consumer and industry groups.
Finally, the June public meetings concluded with a discussion of egg products from the Netherlands. In addition to Almanza, Rottenberg, Wagner and Smith, also in attendance at the meeting from FSIS was Jane Doherty, the agency’s international coordinator. Not all the affiliations for the visitors were provided, but United Egg Producers’ Oscar Garrison, vice president of food safety affairs, and Rand Green with the public affairs firm Watson Green LLC were among the participants.
Almanza’s name will cease showing up on these reports as he retires after a decade as FSIS administrator on July 31.
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