On the same day the American Meat Institute (AMI) sent a letter demanding a meeting with Jerold R. Mande, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety was meeting with Bruce Silverglade, Director of Legal Affairs for the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).

Whether Mande and Silverglade discussed electron beam (e-beam) irradiation of beef carcasses, we do not know.   We do know CSPI opposes AMI’s petition to allow low-dose, low penetration e-beam irradiation as a carcass processing aid.

Following the tracks through the offices of top government officials is one of the ways to tell what’s getting attention and what is not.  Both USDA and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration publish meeting calendars for their top officials on agency websites.

Mande’s September meetings were fairly balanced between industry and consumer/food safety groups.  While AMI was not on his schedule, Mande reports meetings with Keystone Foods, the National Chicken Council, Hormel, Russell and Brown, and the food industry funded International Food Council.

On the consumer side, Mande met with Food & Water Watch, American Public Health Association, Consumer Federation of America, and Partnership for Food Safety Education, and twice with CSPI.

Texas A&M University and Canada’s Food Inspection Agency also sent delegations to meet with Mande.

Mande sits atop the USDA’s Food Safety & Inspection Service because the Obama Administration has not yet appointed a permanent Under Secretary for Food Safety.  Until then, anyone with FSIS will want time on this schedule.

At FDA, the schedules of Doctors Margaret Hamburg and Joshua Sharfstein, respectively the FDA Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner, are being made public; but not that of Mike Taylor, the man some call Obama’s “food safety Czar.”

Taylor, officially a special assistant to Hamburg, is a former Monsanto executive who has been in and out of government and generates controversy for his past support of genetically modified food.

Hamburg’s schedule shows she often has Taylor in tow.  He was with the Commissioner at September speeches she made at the 32nd Annual National Food Policy Conference, and to the United Fresh Produce Association; and in private meetings with the California Strawberry Growers Association and the Produce Marketing Association.

The FDA Commissioner, who must divide her schedule among all the various food and drug constituencies, also met with CSPI and the Pew Charitable Trust.

Drugs, medical devices, and tobacco issues dominated Sharfstein’s September schedule, although he did accompany Hamburg to some of her food-related meetings.