USDA’s public calendar for the agency’s four top food safety officials covering the month of March is again available on the Food Safety and Inspection Service’s website.
It disappeared over the weekend, raising the possibility the calendar was begin revised for meetings over the controversial “pink slime” issue that may have occurred during the month.
FSIS has very recently added the months of April and May to its public calendar internet site, showing that Lean Finely Textured Beef (LFTB), the formal name of the much maligned product, was the subject of an April 2 three Hormel executives and their lobbyist from the Russell Group.
One other LFBT meeting involving Elisabeth A. Hagen, under secretary for food safety, and Brian E. Ronholm, deputy under secretary was held on March 26 with other agency officials and two representatives of the Food Marketing Institute.
March was when the media storm occurred and USDA decided to let states out of contracts for purchase of up to 7 million pounds of LFTB during the coming school year.
The month ended with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad holding a press conference in Des Moines to defend the safety, low fat content, and affordable price of LFTB.
The pair next went to Beef Products Inc.’s Nebraska location for a plant tour with Hagen. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, and lieutenant governors from Nebraska and South Dakota joined them.
Food Safety News periodically publishes summaries of the public calendars and last did so on June 21 when information for the Jan. 1-March 31 period was available. April and May are also now available.
Public calendars are routinely made available for the Under Secretary, Deputy Under Secretary, Administrator, and the Deputy Administrator. They are intended to cover meetings with persons outside the agency.
Hormel’s April 2 meeting on LFTB involved both Brian E. Ronholm, Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety, and Philip Derfler, the FSIS Deputy Administrator.
Ronholm was especially busy with outsiders during the month, doing plant tours and speaking on Global Food Systems in New England, and speaking to the Grocery Manufacturers Association in Washington, D.C.
Ronholm also did meetings with the poultry industry and the Australian government.
Derfler and Administrator Al Almanza met with a group headed by Jim Hodges of the American Meat Institute (AMI) on poultry cooking requirements. An April meeting with industry officials was also held with Almanza and Derfler both in attendance. Almanza also met with a delegation from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).
Hagen attended the monthly meeting with industry representatives and a couple delegations of foreign food safety officials.
During May, Hagen did some media interviews, met with the Humane Society of the United States on its petition on horse slaughter, and did a meeting on poultry slaughter with a representative of the National Council of La Raza.
She also spoke to a breakfast meeting of the National Meat Association on food safety.
All four top food safety officials attended May meetings with both industry and consumer representatives.