Dr. Elisabeth Hagen, Under Secretary for Food Safety at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is slated to give a handful of public remarks in the coming months, likely outlining the future direction of food safety policy at the agency, which oversees the safety of approximately 20 percent of the food supply.

Hagen kicked off a series of speeches yesterday afternoon at the American Farm Bureau Federation Annual Conference in Atlanta, where she and Mike Taylor, Deputy Commissioner for Foods at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, took questions on which improvements can be made to the food safety system and on how to improve consumer food safety practices.  Video from the conference will be available on the Farm Bureau’s conference blog.

Hagen’s speech is her second since she took the reins at the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service Aug. 19.  In September, Hagen spoke at the National Food Policy Conference in Washington, D.C., shedding light on her policy goals for the agency, which may include declaring non-O157 strains of E. coli as adulterants.

“I think we know more than we did in the 1990s when O157 was determined to be an adulterant,” said Hagen, during a Q&A at the food policy conference.
At the end of January, Dr. Hagen is slated to speak at a day-long meeting sponsored by the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Center for Science in the Public Interest, “Managing the Risk of Foodborne Hazards: STECs and Antibiotic-Resistant Pathogens.”  According to the conference schedule, Hagen will make a presentation at 9 a.m. on Jan. 25 at the Pew Charitable Trusts’ office in Washington, D.C.

Hagen will also deliver remarks at the National Turkey Federation Annual Conference in Tucson, AZ, in mid-February (the details have not yet been announced) and in mid-March at the 2011 Meat Industry Management Conference, sponsored by the North American Meat Processors Association, in Chicago.

It’s not clear what Hagen’s message will be in the coming months, or what new policies she might pursue, but as she said in September, “Nothing is off limits.”

“Calls for food safety reform have come from every angle–from members of Congress … to members of the media.  We hear you,” she said.  “This Administration has a commitment to food safety that hasn’t been seen in more than a decade.   And I assure you that while we have this opportunity, while we have this moment; USDA is going to seize it.”

Correction: This article originally incorrectly reported that Hagen speech was scheduled for Monday January 10.