Kenneth Peterson, assistant administrator of the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service says there are 350 outbreaks from contaminated food each year, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are also 5,000 food-related deaths each year.

“We need to look across the entire food supply, across jurisdictions, and determine where the risks are and how to allocate resources accordingly,” Peterson said at the 2009 Food System Summit.

Peterson said a strong national food safety system:

  • Needs to break down silos between agencies.
  • Uses risk, hazards and performance measures for inspection.
  • Prevents rather than reacts to food safety threats.

The new Food Safety Working group put in place by President Obama is guided by three principles of prioritizing prevention, strengthening surveillance and enforcement, and improving response and recovery.

Goals for the Food Safety Working Group include:

  • Pursuing new standards to reduce Salmonella.
  • Improve E. coli plant controls, increase testing & types of testing.
  • Regular education sessions with resources.
  • Podcasts and inspection-related Q&A database at
  • FSIS Constituent Update, free weekly update at

E. coliO157:H7
Peterson says though E. coli recalls remain at a low level, the number of E. coli illness recalls went from zero 10 between 2006 and 2007. “How do you go from none to a rapid change?” asked Peterson. “This is challenging for the industry, FSIS and consumers.”

Listeria monocytogenes
In 1990, almost 4.5% of the FSIS samples for Listeria monocytogenes were positive. That decreased to 1.5% in 1999, and 0.43% in 2009. “This is a significant accomplishment, and Listeria control has come a long way,” Peterson said.

Peterson said he would like to see a higher percentage of plants have a lower percentage of Salmonella. He noted that this year there were some recalls that involved multidrug-resistant Salmonella which is problematic.