USDA’s fresh produce chief will join FDA to help develop new food safety rules as part of a cooperative initiative between FDA and USDA. The announcement comes amid growing outreach efforts with key agriculture and safe food stakeholders to better share and exchange produce safety best practices.
Leanne Skelton, chief of the Fresh Products Branch of USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS) will be on detail with FDA for six months to help develop new safety regulations for produce. She has been working for AMS for more than 22 years on inspections, grading, certification, standardization, and training.
“President Obama, like most Americans, wants immediate improvements in our food safety system,” says Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “As such we are pulling together all our best resources – state and federal – to improve the safety of our foods and to work with growers to protect and promote the health of our nation.”
FDA is gathering information and seeking feedback from the fresh produce industry, including small and organic farmers, on the impact such rules may have on their businesses and lives. USDA and FDA officials have been traveling together to meet with farmers and local food safety officials.
FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg iterated the agency’s commitment to listen and learn from all those with a role in protecting the safety of the food system. “It is vitally important for us to hear ideas, concerns, and experiences directly from local growers around the country as we develop rules to help protect the safety of fresh produce from the farm to the table,” Hamburg says. “We will be that much more effective by working closely with farmers, our USDA partners, and with state and local food safety agencies.”