Unlike the first 90 days or so of the coronavirus pandemic, not every outsider who made contact with USDA’s top Food Safety and Inspection Service executives in June wanted to talk about COVID-19. Nor was normalcy making a comeback during the summer months as the only contact outsiders had with FSIS Administrator Paul Kiecker or Under Secretary for Food Safety Mindy Brashears was telephonic.

FSIS has updated its public calendar through July, reporting on meetings with people who are outside the federal government that involved either Kiecker and Brashears. Other FSIS personnel that attended the meetings are also listed.

Brian Ronholm, director of food policy for Consumer Reports, was the participant in a telephonic conference involving Kiecker and several other FSIS officials on June 3 about small and very small production plant issues. Ronholm is a former deputy USDA undersecretary for food safety.

The FSIS administrator had two telephone conferences during the month with representatives of USDA regulated establishments on COVID-19. Those telephonic updates were on June 10 and 24. Several FSIS officials were on both calls.

Kiecker and FSIS staffers did a phone meeting on June 15 with Brian McFarlane, head of technical services for JBS, about the antemortem inspection.

The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA), put members on the line to speak with Kiecker and other FSIS officials on June 24 about state inspection.

Brashears, who was confirmed as USDA’s Under Secretary for Food Safety on March 23, conducted an introductory meeting with executives of the Irving, TX-based technology company InnovaZones.

On June 18, Brashears had separate telephone conferences that were open to representatives of consumer and industry organizations.

On June 23, hatchery eggs were the subject of Brashear’s conference call with Oscar Garrison, senior vice president of food safety for United Egg Producers, and Watson Green, a principal with Watson Green LLC, a Washington D.C.-based law firm.

FSIS Administrator Kiecker had another COVID-19 conference call for USDA-regulated establishments and industry representatives on July 8. On July 24, Brashears and numerous FSIS officials conferenced with North American Meat Institute (NAMI) executives about COVID-19. President Julie Anna Potts led the NAMI delegation.

Kiecker and other FSIS officials had a conference call on July 9 with Cargill’s Dan Etzler, director of food safety, quality, and regulatory affairs. The subject discussed was “connectivity.”

On the same day, Brashears was on the phone with Brian McFarlane, who heads technical services for JBS. A long list of FSIS personnel was listening in with the subject matter being “data collection.”

A telephonic conference Brashears had on July 10 with food safety organizations, including STOP Foodborne Illness and the Center for Science in the Public Interest, has generated some interest. The subject of the discussion is listed as “changes in poultry safety regulatory framework,” Mike Taylor, formerly FDA’s deputy commissioner for food, was patched into the session. He is now on the board of STOP Foodborne Illness.

Brashears also had another round of conference calls with consumer and industry organizations on July 23. Numerous FSIS officials were listening in for those meetings.

Brashears finished off the month with a July 28 conference call with “small scale producers” about assistance for small meat and poultry processors.

Kiecker’s final telephone conference was on July 29 with Lee Beckmann, manager of government affairs for the Georgia Ports Authority, about export certificates. Numerous FSIS officials were also on the line.

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