The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s top two food safety officials met ten times with stakeholders and lobbyists over 21 days in October, according to the recently issued public calendar from the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

Carmen Rottenberg, acting deputy Under Secretary of Agriculture for Food Safety, and Paul Kiecker acting FSIS administrator kept their doors open during the month.

Their busiest day with outsiders was Oct. 2 when in back-to-back sessions Rottenberg and Kiecker met with delegations from the U.S. Meat Export Federation, Southwest Meat Association, JBS/Pilgrim’s Pride, and Tyson’s Fresh Meats.

Exports were the topic for the Rottenberg-Kiecker meeting with the U.S. Meat Export Federation’s Paul Clayton and Homero Recio. Clayton is USMEF’s senior vice president for export services. Recio is president and chief operating officer of Agri-West International. He represents the purveying/trading sector on the USMEF Executive Committee.

Their meeting with the food safety leadership came as USMEF was reporting that U.S. beef exports remained on a record-shattering value pace in October. Pork exports for October trended seasonally higher compared to recent months but were still below the results posted last year. Lamb export volume in October more than doubled year-over-year, while value increased by nearly 50 percent.

Todd Reed, FSIS chief operating officer, and Bill Smith, FSIS assistant administrator also attended the export meeting.

Eden Shiferaw, John Southerland, Jeremiah Johnson, Lacy Ashworth, Carey Ruff, Edward Ruff, Trey Judd, Greg Mueller, Dr. Joe Harris, Tammy Harris, Misty Borkowski, Angela Alvarado, and Kathy Kennedy–all from the Southwest Meat Associaton. Dr. Harris is president and chief executive officer for the College Station, TX-based organization.

With Rottenberg and Kiecker along others from FSIS, the Southwest Meat Association delegation brought along Betsy Booren from the Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Matz law firm in Washington D.C. It is also known as OFW Law and is well known for its representation skills on a broad range of agricultural issues. The session with FSIS was over compliance and labeling concerns.

Chandler Keys of the Keys Group escorted Kendra Waldbusser and Tina Rendon from Pilgrim’s Pride and Sherri Jenkins from JBS to FSIS for an “industry update.”

They met with Kiecker, FSIS Assistant Administrator Denise Eblen, Chief Scientist Emilio Esteban, and Director Bill Shaw. Chandler Keys reports representing JBS USA interests in Washington D.C. for a rate of $102,000 per quarter.

OFW Law’s Betsy Booren made two trips to FSIS on Oct. 2nd. Jennifer Williams and Dan Mallin, both from Tyson Fresh Meats joined her for the second meeting with Rottenberg and Kiecker. The Tyson meeting was about “modernization efforts.”

Hilary Thesmar, Stephanie Harris, and Peter Matz — all from the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) met with Rottenberg and Kiecker on Oct. 10 about the “Lm Pilot Project” and ground beef safety.

FSIS began the “Lm Pilot Project” as a one-year effort, but has since extended it to the end of the fiscal year 2021. It focuses on best practices for controlling Listeria monocytogenes (Lm) in retail delicatessens.

FMI member companies operate nearly 33,000 retail food stores and 12,000 pharmacies. Their representatives also met with Carl Mayes – FSIS’s Assistant Administrator and FSIS Scientific Advisor Janell Kause.

Chandler Keys from the Keys Group returned to FSIS on Oct. 11. This time he had in tow Bill Westman, senior vice president of international affairs for the North American Meat Institute (NAMI); and Tyler Bjornson of the Canadian public affairs firm Bjornson & Associates.

“Official Inspection Facilities” was listed as the top of the meeting with Rottenberg and Kiecker. Bill Smith, assistant administrator; Michael Watts and Keith Gilmore, executive assistants, also attended from FSIS.

Rottenberg and Kiecker next met with Dr. Ashley Peterson, Vice President of Science and Technology for National Chicken Council (NCC). With her were Steve Snyder with Claxton Poultry and regulatory attorney Brian Eyink of the Washington D.C.-based law firm of Hogan Lovells.

The poultry meeting was for “food safety updates,” according to the public calendar.

Rottenberg, Kiecker and the FSIS assistant administrators held separate meetings with consumer and industry stakeholders. Attendees had the option of appearing in person or by dialing into the teleconference service.

FSIS provides the names of those who were scheduled to attend each meeting.

Here is the list for Oct. 18, 2018, Consumer Stakeholder Meeting:

In-person Attendance:

Thomas Gremillion, Consumer Federation of America
Sarah Sorscher, Center for Science in the Public Interest
Tony Corbo, Food and Water Watch

Teleconference Attendance:

Pat Buck, Center for Foodborne Illness Research & Prevention

Tanya Roberts, Center for Foodborne Illness Research & Prevention
Sarah Borron, Government Accountability Project
Jim Rogers, Consumers Union

Here is the list for Oct. 18, 2018, Industry Stakeholder Meeting:

In-person Attendance:

Kristin Lindahl, Cargill
Lisa Weddig, National Fisheries Institute
Jessica Watson, NCBA
Kathy Simmons, NCBA
Jody Swaim, OFW Law
Betsy Booren, OFW Law
John Dillard, OFW Law
KatieRose McCullough, NAMI
Lisa Wallenda Picard, NTF
Tori Ahlmeyer, NTF
Paige Doklovic, NTF
Laurie Bryant, MiCA

Teleconference Attendance:

Brian Sylvester, Wiley Rein LLP
Keith Day, Twin Rivers Foods
Casey Gallimore, NAMI
Brad Bowman, Smithfield
Hiroko Bray, Smithfield
Susan Finstad, Tyson Foods
Kimberly Rice, US Foods
Riette van Laack, Hyman, Phelps & McNamara, P.C.
Charlotte Waller, Virginia Poultry Growers Coop
Tony Pavel, Cargill
Nicole Finch, Turkey Valley Farms
Laura Bachmeier, National Pork Board
Katie Hanigan, Smithfield
Alison Griffino, Tyson Foods
Tina Rendon, Pilgrims
Lynette Schroeder, Tyson Foods
Paul Clayton, USMEF
Travis Arp, USMEF
Lindsay McKittrick, USMEF
Michael Roberson, Publix Super Markets, Inc

Rottenberg and Kiecker took their last outside meeting on Oct. 23. It was a “Hormel Update,” which was provided by Lori Marco and Tyson Redpath, both with Hormel Foods, and Randy Russell of the Russell Group. A day earlier, the Russell Group reported collecting a $40,000 retainer from Hormel Foods for the third quarter.

Finally, Rottenberg did an interview earlier in the month with Zlati Meyer of USA Today about beef recalls.