The U.S. Department of Agriculture will hold a public summit on pre-harvest food safety on November 9 in Washington, DC, Under Secretary of Food Safety Elisabeth Hagen said Wednesday.

“We’re not looking to go on the farm, but we have to sponsor the discussion,” Hagen said in her remarks at an Ogilvy food safety event in Washington, DC. “We think we have to be looking at food safety all the way through.”

Again, Hagen emphasized: “We are not looking to go on the farm, we are not looking to regulate producers at FSIS, but everything that happens on the farm impacts what we do, it impacts the amount of risk that has to be handled throughout the system.”

Hagen also pointed to the 2010 pre-harvest E. coli guidance for beef slaughter establishments, a resource for producers. The compliance guide discusses several known practices for pre-harvest management to reduce E. coli contamination in cattle and focuses on the prevention of E. coli O157:H7 through reduced fecal shedding on the farm and during live animal holding before slaughter.

“What we’ve really been engaged in is this grassroots type of discussion with packers, with producers, with scientists, we have this huge research portfolio at USDA on pre-harvest food safety.”

During the event, Hagen also hinted at strengthening Salmonella standards for poultry, in light of the recent antibiotic resistant Salmonella outbreak that sparked a massive recall of Cargill ground turkey.

“You’re going to see some steps from the agency on ground poultry,” said Hagen, noting that FSIS will take be taking a “proactive approach” to prevent human illness.

Also see: FSIS Issues Guidelines on Cattle Shedding, May 17, 2010.

  • Minkpuppy

    I’ve been preaching pre-harvest food safety for awhile now. Glad to see it’s finally starting to be looked at. Livestock producers are a vital link in the food safety chain whether they realize it or not.
    I hope that we can communicate the importance of these pre-harvest interventions in such a way that we don’t end up alienating producers rather than motivating them to take an active role in preventing bugs like E. coli 0157:H7