HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that prevention and partnership will guide their departments’ efforts to safeguard the food Americans eat every day.  Both Secretaries announced new strategies that focus on prevention and depend on working closely with growers, food processors and consumers to achieve their goals.

Agriculture Secretary Vilsack announced that USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) is issuing guidance for inspectors to begin conducting routine sampling of bench trim for E. coli.  Bench trim are the pieces left over from steaks and other cuts that are then used to make ground beef. FSIS will also be issuing streamlined, consolidated instructions to its personnel for inspection, sampling and other actions to reduce E. coli O157:H7 in beef.  FSIS is also issuing streamlined instructions to its inspectors to provide a simplified procedure to find an eliminate E. coli before it reaches consumers.

“Making prevention a priority is critical to reducing foodborne illness and one of the three food safety principles of President Obama’s Food Safety Working Group.” said Vilsack.  “The actions we are taking today will result in safer food in our country, which means healthier children, longer lives and less costly healthcare.”

Unveiled today, the FDA commodity-specific draft guidances are based on the public health principles embraced by the White House Food Safety Working Group. The Working Group is being led by Secretary Sebelius and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.  FDA’s draft guidances are the first step toward setting enforceable standards for produce safety.

“These new food safety guidelines will facilitate the development of enforceable food safety standards and ensure a safer supply of fresh food for all Americans,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. “The three draft guidances are designed to help growers and others across the entire supply chain minimize or eliminate contamination in leafy greens, tomatoes, and melons that can cause foodborne illnesses.”

Commissioner Hamburg said the draft guidances represent a shift in strategy for the FDA, from a food safety system that often has been reactive to one that is based on preventing foodborne hazards.

The full release is available from HHS and USDA.

To access the key findings and recommendations of the President’s Food Safety Working Group along with more information about its activities, click here.