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A Georgia health inspector noted only two minor violations at the Peanut Corp. of America plant in October, and inspection reports indicate officials spent no more than a few hours inside the plant during visits there. But after the FDA became suspicious of the plant’s role in the outbreak months later, it found roaches, mold, a leaking roof and other sanitation problems. The federal agents spent days at the plant.

The FDA never followed up on the Georgia inspections because the problems discovered by the state “were considered to be somewhat resolved,” Michael Chappell, head of the FDA’s enforcement division, said during a congressional hearing last week.

The FDA relied on Georgia to inspect the Peanut Corp. plant in Blakely between 2006 and 2008, just as it relies on other states. But Georgia failed to identify problems, even as the company’s own internal testing repeatedly found salmonella in its products and Canada rejected a shipment of its peanuts because of metal contamination.

State investigators performed more than half the Food and Drug Administration’s food inspections in 2007, according to an AP analysis of FDA data. That represents a dramatic rise from a decade ago, when FDA investigators performed three out of four of the federal government’s inspections. The Agriculture Department is responsible for meat and dairy safety.

The number of federal field food inspectors dropped by more than 400 between 2003 and 2007, according to the FDA’s budget. But the number of businesses requiring oversight increased by 7,200 between 2003 and 2007, according to the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress.

Excerpt from –

US relies on states for food safety inspections
BY SETH BORENSTEIN and BRETT J. BLACKLEDGE
AP,  posted: 3 DAYS 4 HOURS AGO

http://news.aol.com/article/us-relies-on-states-for-food-safety/335540?icid=sphere_wsj_teaser

***

“My 89-year-old mother and my 3-year-old grandson both enjoy peanut butter and jelly sandwiches,” Bulloch said. “I wouldn’t be exposing either of them to anything I thought was remotely unsafe.”

** my note – where has this guy been lately – under a rock somewhere?

Despite peanut crisis, PB&J Day still a go at Capitol
Blakely’s state senator sponsors resolution commending state’s peanut industry

By MARY LOU PICKEL

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Friday, February 13, 2009

In these less-than-smooth days for the peanut industry, one state senator wants to remind everyone that the crunchy icon of Georgia agriculture has not been forsaken at the state Capitol.

Sen. John Bulloch (R-Ochlocknee) sponsored a resolution this week commending the state’s peanut industry and reminding everyone that Peanut Butter & Jelly Day will be celebrated at the Capitol on March 4.

“We’re promoting a great Georgia product, and that’s peanuts,” said Bulloch.

And next week, goober boosters will hold “Peanut Power Hour” at the Capitol, offering samples of a wide variety of peanut products with the aim of educating consumers about the safety and health benefits of peanuts.

The industry is acting in response to the nationwide salmonella outbreak in which tainted peanut products have sickened more than 630 people and possibly caused nine deaths.

Bulloch’s district includes Blakely, home to the Peanut Corp. of America processing plant now under federal investigation as the source of the salmonella outbreak. Bulloch has started to wear a peanut pin on his lapel, and recently, he held up a jar of peanut butter in the Senate chamber to remind his colleagues that it’s safe to eat.

http://www.ajc.com/metro/content/metro/stories/2009/02/13/georgia_legislature_peanut.html

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Peanut plant shipped products it knew were tainted, FDA says
By BRETT J. BLACKLEDGE and RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR
The Associated Press
“Do not issue” was written Friday on a skid of meals intended for Kentucky storm victims. Authorities warned that the meals could include peanut butter recalled because of possible salmonella.
DANIEL PATMORE

Peanut Co. owner urged shipping tainted products

WASHINGTON | A Georgia peanut plant knowingly shipped salmonella-laced products as far back as 2007, according to inspection records released Friday.

At times it sent out tainted products after tests confirmed contamination, the records showed.

Food and Drug Administration officials earlier said Peanut Corp. of America waited for a second test to clear peanut butter and peanuts that initially were positive for salmonella. But the agency amended its report Friday, noting that the Blakely, Ga., processing plant actually shipped some products before receiving the second test and sold others after confirming salmonella.

http://www.kansascity.com/news/politics/story/1022205.html

Peanut Co. owner urged shipping tainted products
By RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR and BRETT J. BLACKLEDGE
Associated Press Writers

The owner of a peanut company urged his workers to ship tainted products after receiving test results identifying salmonella, imploring employees to “turn the raw peanuts on our floor into money,” according to internal company e-mails disclosed Wednesday by a House committee.

The company e-mails obtained by the House panel showed that Peanut Corp. of America owner Stewart Parnell ordered the shipments tainted with the bacteria because he was worried about lost sales.

Stupak says he wants know how Peanut Corp. managed to sell allegedly tainted goods month after month without triggering action by state and federal health authorities.

The company, now under FBI investigation, makes only about 1 percent of U.S. peanut products. But its ingredients are used by dozens of other food companies.

Federal law forbids producing or shipping foods under conditions that could harm consumers’ health.

Peanut Corp.’s troubles mounted this week as the FBI raided corporate headquarters in Lynchburg, Va., as well as the Georgia plant. On Monday night, the company closed a second facility, in Plainview, Texas, after test results earlier in the day indicated salmonella was present in samples taken at the Texas plant. None of the products had been distributed to consumers, but the finding raised the prospect of a broader recall.

Further testing is needed to confirm the results, said Doug McBride, spokesman for the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Posted on Tue, Feb. 10, 2009 11:16 PM

http://www.kansascity.com/news/politics/story/1027307.html

***

http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/homesec/RL31719.pdf

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FDA Honors IDFA, Others with Industry Collaboration Award
IDFA’s collaborative and successful efforts to extend the industry’s third-party international certification pilot program were recognized in June with an honor award from the Food and Drug Administration. As members of the industry team that worked on the pilot program, Clay Hough, IDFA senior group vice president, and Philippe Caradec of The Dannon Company received FDA’s Leveraging Collaboration Award “for precedent setting, collaborative effort in order to maximize federal and state resources while maintaining NCIMS standards for imported Grade A milk and milk products.”

As a result of industry teamwork, the National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments agreed earlier this year to extend the Grade A International Certification pilot program to evaluate whether private certifiers can be used instead of state regulators to effectively inspect and rate dairy farms and plants against Grade A standards. A total of 19 team members, representing FDA, the Center for Food Safety and Nutrition, several state agriculture departments and the National Milk Producers Federation, received the award.

#  #   #

Posted July 7, 2008
http://www.idfa.org/news/stories/2008/07/fda_award.cfm

***
About the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA)
http://www.idfa.org/about/index.cfm

Regulation and Food Safety – (same site)
http://www.idfa.org/reg/index.cfm

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 4, 2008

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FDA Commissioner Names Directors to Food Safety and Veterinary Centers

Commissioner of Food and Drugs Andrew C. von Eschenbach, M.D., is pleased to announce two major changes in the agency’s senior leadership team. Effective Monday, Stephen F. Sundlof, D.V.M., Ph.D., is moving from director of FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) to director of FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN). Bernadette Dunham, D.V.M., Ph.D., who is deputy director of CVM, will assume directorship of CVM, also effective Monday.

“It is more important than ever that the American public feel confident in the safety of the food they eat and feed their loved ones,” said von Eschenbach. “Drs. Sundlof and Dunham are world class scientists and leaders, with the dedication, vision and expertise needed to tackle challenges and enhance the science involved in assuring the safety and nutritional value of something so vital to healthy life; namely our food.”

For over a decade, Dr. Sundlof has served as the director of CVM. In that capacity, with his background as a toxicologist, he has overseen the regulation of feed, including food additives, and drugs intended for animals. These include animals from which human foods are derived, as well as food and drugs for pets (or companion animals) and other non-food-producing animals such as zoo animals, parakeets, hamsters, and aquarium fish.

Dr. Sundlof has extensive experience in the food safety and protection arena, including service on numerous domestic and international committees on food safety, where he served as chairman and led the development of new international policies and safety standards. He also provided significant input into the development of the FDA’s Food Protection Plan issued in November 2007, a strategic and comprehensive approach to improve food safety and defense in the United States. He was instrumental in putting in place robust animal feed programs to prevent Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), also called mad cow disease, from entering the U.S. feed system. There have been no cases of mad cow disease in the United States resulting from a failure of the feed system. This depth and breadth of experience makes him well suited to serve as director of CFSAN.

Prior to joining FDA, Dr. Sundlof served on the faculty of the College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida, where he held the rank of professor of toxicology. He also has received many honors and awards as a leader in his field and has authored several scientific and technical papers. Since 1994 he has served as chairman of the Codex Committee on Residues of Veterinary Drugs in Foods.

Dr. Dunham has worked closely with Dr. Sundlof in her role as deputy director of CVM since 2006. She has played a critical role, and provided executive leadership, in coordinating and establishing center policy in research, management, scientific evaluation, compliance, and surveillance. While serving as CVM deputy director, Dr. Dunham also was the director for CVM’s Office of Minor Use and Minor Species Animal Drug Development, the office that oversees drug development for minor species, such as zoo animals, ornamental fish, parrots, ferrets, guinea pigs, sheep, goats, catfish, and honeybees. That office also oversees drug development for uncommon diseases in major species, such as cattle, pigs, chicken, turkeys, horses, dogs and cats.

Before joining the FDA in 2002, Dr. Dunham served in several important leadership positions with the American Veterinary Medical Association and held faculty positions at several universities, including at the Department of Pharmacology at the State University of New York Health Science Center (SUNY-HSC) at Syracuse, while concurrently acting as the director of laboratory animal medicine at SUNY-HSC at Syracuse.

In addition to the scientific peer recognition she has received throughout her career, Dr. Dunham continues to collaborate with colleagues outside of FDA, as evidenced by her two FDA Leveraging/Collaboration Awards. One recognized her accomplishments as a member of the Swissmedic Bilateral Collaboration, through which the FDA and its Swiss counterpart work to increase collaboration on facility inspections. The other acknowledged her contributions to the U.S.-Canada-Mexico Security and Prosperity Partnership/Negotiation Team. This partnership is a trilateral effort to increase security and enhance prosperity among the United States, Canada and Mexico through greater cooperation and information sharing.

Drs. Sundlof and Dunham will report directly to Dr. von Eschenbach.

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Biography of Andrew C. von Eschenbach, M.D.

PDF Version

Andrew C. von Eschenbach, M.D.Andrew C. von Eschenbach, M.D., was appointed Acting Commissioner of Food and Drugs in September 2005, where he immediately engaged an agenda to modernize the FDA. Under his leadership, many new programs have been designed to strengthen the FDA in its mission to protect and promote public health. He has emphasized FDA’s role in working with external partners to assure quality throughout the entire life cycle of the products it regulates while internally fostering, through process improvements, a regulatory pathway that is transparent and efficient while still rigorous and science led. Confirmed by the Senate as Commissioner in December 2006, Dr. von Eschenbach emphasizes innovation by fostering creative projects, including FDA’s Critical Path Initiative (designed to bring modern tools of science to the product development process); work plans like the FDA’s Food Protection Plan; and most especially the nurturing of the workforce through initiatives, such as an Agency-wide fellowship program and development of a new integrated campus for the Agency in White Oak, Maryland.

Dr. von Eschenbach joined FDA after serving for four years as Director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) at the National Institutes of Health where he set an ambitious goal to eliminate the suffering and death due to cancer by rapid acceleration and integration of the discovery-development-delivery continuum. While at NCI, he committed resources to ensure the application to oncology of nanotechnology, genomics, proteomics, bioinformatics, and other emerging technologies. At the time of his appointment by President Bush to serve as Director of NCI, he was President-Elect of the American Cancer Society. Dr. von Eschenbach entered government service after an outstanding career over three decades as a physician, surgeon, oncologist and executive that included numerous leadership roles from Chairman of the Department of Urologic Oncology to Executive Vice President and Chief Academic at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, an institution world renowned for the magnitude and excellence of its clinical and research cancer programs. An internationally renowned cancer specialist and author of more than 200 scientific articles and studies, Dr. von Eschenbach has served in numerous leadership roles, including serving as one of the founding members of the National Dialogue on Cancer. He has received numerous professional awards and honors. In 2006, Dr. von Eschenbach was named one of Time magazine’s “100 most influential people to shape the world,” and in both 2007 and 2008, he was selected as one of the Modern Healthcare/Modern Physician’s “50 Most Powerful Physician Executives in Healthcare.”

Dr. von Eschenbach earned a B.S. from St. Joseph’s University in his native Philadelphia and his medical degree from Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C. He served as a Lt. Commander in the U.S. Navy Medical Corps. After completing a residency in urologic surgery at Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia, he was an instructor in urology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. He completed a Fellowship in Urologic Oncology at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

He has been married to his childhood sweetheart, Madelyn, for over 40 years, and they are proud parents of four children and elated grandparents of six.

http://www.fda.gov/oc/voneschenbach/bio.html

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Statement of

Andrew C. von Eschenbach, M.D.
Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration
Department of Health and Human Services
before

The Senate Agriculture, Rural Development,
and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee

Field Hearing at the
West Madison Agricultural Research Center
Verona, Wisconsin
March 12 , 2007

Good morning, Chairman Kohl. Thank you for the opportunity to appear today to discuss food safety and the safety of fresh produce. I appreciate your commitment to the work of FDA and I commend you for your special interest in the safety of America’s food supply.

Appearing with me today is Dr. Robert Brackett, Director of FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. We appreciate the opportunity to discuss FDA’s current processes as well as planned improvements for food safety, particularly the safety of fresh produce.

In the past decade, fresh produce consumption has increased, and fresh-cut produce represents a particularly fast-growing segment of the fresh produce market. These foods are an important part of a healthy and nutritious diet, and Americans expect them to be safe. The 2006 outbreaks of Escherichia coli (E. coli) O157:H7 infection linked to fresh spinach and lettuce emphasize the need for continued efforts to protect the public health from foodborne illnesses associated with fresh produce. We at FDA are committed to doing everything we can to help ensure that these and all other FDA-regulated foods are safe.

Therefore, FDA has requested an increase of $10.6 million for food safety activities in FY 2008. This increase will bring the total FDA investment for food safety to $391 million in FY 2008. This investment will help FDA reduce risk across the lifecycle of produce production. FDA will use these resources to develop better methods to detect and attribute foodborne illness outbreaks related to produce, increase sampling and traceback, develop and update guidance to prevent and reduce outbreaks, obtain additional expertise in the production and processing of fresh produce, and enhance our response to foodborne outbreaks.

Fresh vegetables and fruits pose particular food safety challenges. Because most produce is grown in an outdoor environment, it is vulnerable to contamination from pathogens that may be present in the soil, in agricultural or processing water, and in manure used as fertilizer, or due to the presence of animals in or near fields or packing areas. It is also vulnerable to contamination due to inadequate worker health and hygiene protections, environmental conditions, production safeguards, and sanitation of equipment and facilities. The fact that produce is often consumed raw or with only minimal processing, without any type of intervention that would reduce or eliminate pathogens prior to consumption, contributes to its potential as a source of foodborne illness. Consequently, controlling the way fresh produce is grown, harvested, and moved from field to fork is crucial to minimizing the risk of microbial contamination.

For the past 100 years, FDA has established and maintained the gold standard for food safety. Americans have one of the safest food supplies in the world. But the production, distribution, and importation of foods, the public’s consumption practices, and our ability to track and identify foodborne pathogens have changed significantly, and FDA must respond to those changes. Fresh produce serves as a good example of the changes we are witnessing. Consumption of fresh produce – especially items like spinach and lettuce implicated in recent outbreaks of foodborne illness – has increased significantly since 1999. According to USDA, per capita consumption of leafy green lettuce and spinach grew by 59 percent and 130 percent respectively, between 1999 and 2006.

Therefore, reducing the risk of foodborne illness requires strong science capable of identifying both the sources of risk and effective control measures. We are using molecular technology to improve our ability to identify foodborne illnesses and their causes by tracking the fingerprints of the suspected contaminants. We must address some of these risks as food is produced and other risks as food is processed and distributed. We must also enhance our ability to detect and contain outbreaks. Reducing the risk of foodborne illness also requires effective partnerships with other parties interested in food safety. Finally, reducing the risks of foodborne illness also requires FDA to strategically deploy inspection resources in a manner that addresses the greatest risks to the food supply. FDA has focused its food safety efforts in three key areas, and I elaborate on these here.
I. Strengthening the Scientific Basis for FDA’s Program to Improve Food Safety

Strengthening the scientific basis for FDA’s program to improve food safety is key to improving FDA’s effectiveness at protecting public health. For the past decade, FDA has worked closely with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES) to coordinate and mutually support our respective research efforts related to produce safety. This relationship allows FDA to augment its research resources and gain access to facilities and expertise we do not have. In this spirit, we collaborated with ARS and CSREES to look for sources of E. coli O157:H7 in California’s Salinas Valley, to analyze water samples from the Salinas watershed for E. coli O157:H7, and to relate the location of bacteria to geographical, seasonal, or rainfall variation. FDA will use the information obtained from this study to inform produce growers about strategies to prevent pre-harvest microbial contamination.

We strengthen the scientific basis for our program by collaborating and learning with others, such as participating in many scientific and technical meetings on food safety. Last month we participated in a forum sponsored by the Western Institute for Food Safety and Security to share information on assessing industry approaches to address the safety of lettuce and leafy greens on the farm and at packing, cooling, and processing facilities. In February 2007, the FDA-affiliated Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition and the University of Florida sponsored a workshop to improve understanding of how tomatoes become contaminated with Salmonella and other pathogens. In May 2007, FDA, the National Center for Food Safety and Technology, and the University of Georgia’s Center for Food Safety will co-sponsor a workshop on microbial testing to reach a consensus on the role of microbial testing to ensure the safety of produce.

To seek additional input from the public, we are holding two public hearings (March 20 in California and April 13 in Maryland) concerning the safety of fresh produce. We will share information about recent outbreaks of foodborne illness related to fresh produce and solicit comments, data, and other scientific information about current agricultural and manufacturing practices, risk factors for contamination, and possible measures by FDA to enhance the safety of fresh produce.
II. Enhancing Effective Partnerships

To succeed in our science-based efforts to promote food safety, we need to enhance our collaborations with stakeholders interested in food safety, particularly with respect to fresh produce. Fresh produce is produced on tens of thousands of farms, and contamination at one step in the growing and processing chain can be amplified at the next step. FDA has worked with the public and private sector to encourage industry to follow the recommendations and standards contained in FDA guidances. After enlisting the help of the scientific community and the industry, FDA published the “Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables.” This guide, published in 1998, recommends good agricultural practices and good manufacturing practices that growers, packers, and shippers can take to address common risk factors in their operations. We have worked with the domestic and foreign fresh produce industry since the release of this Guide to promote its recommendations and to advance the scientific knowledge to enhance the safety of fresh produce.

The example of fresh sprouts illustrates how successful these efforts can be. In 1999, there were 390 reported illnesses associated with eating contaminated fresh sprouts. FDA published two guidance documents for sprouts that year. We believe that the subsequent decline in sprout-associated illnesses was in large part due to industry adhering to recommendations in those guidances through our outreach and inspection efforts. In 2004, only 33 illnesses were reported associated with fresh sprouts, and in 2005 and 2006 there were none.

FDA’s efforts in this area are ongoing. I am pleased to report that just last week FDA issued a draft final version of its “Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards of Fresh-cut Fruits and Vegetables” (the Fresh-cut Guide). This guidance is intended for all fresh-cut produce firms, including, among others, fresh-cut spinach and lettuce/leafy greens, to enhance the safety of fresh-cut produce by minimizing the microbial food safety hazards. In addition, FDA worked with the Delegation of the United States to the international Codex Alimentarius Commission to request, at the earliest possible date, an expert consultation on the microbiological safety of fresh produce to support the development of commodity-specific annexes to the hygienic code. In August 2006, FDA launched its “Lettuce and Leafy Greens Initiative,” which assesses practices and conditions at select farms and facilities in California, in collaboration with California’s Department of Health Services and its Department of Food and Agriculture. We will continue to work with Federal, state, local and international food safety partners and with industry to develop guidance, conduct research, develop educational outreach materials, and initiate other commodity- or region-specific programs to enhance the safety of fresh produce.
III. Improving Risk-Based Targeting of Inspection Resources

FDA is significantly improving its ability to target its inspection resources at the greatest risks to public health. However, inspections cannot and will not identify every potential contaminant. Improving the processes and operations of all participants in the food production and distribution process offers the greatest protection for American consumers, and inspections are only one component of this activity. To make best use of available resources, FDA uses a targeted, risk-based approach to inspections. FDA conducted 17 percent more import field exams in 2006 than in 2003. In addition, the FDA/USDA Food Emergency Response Network increased its laboratory participation to 134 laboratories in FY 2007, compared to 30 participating laboratories in March 2004 (near FERN’s inception), integrating the nation’s food testing capability for microbiological, chemical and radiological threat agents.

FDA’s ability to reallocate resources based on risk was tested when peanut butter was recently implicated in an outbreak of Salmonella Tennessee. FDA issued a warning to consumers within 24 hours of receiving notification by CDC, and swiftly deployed inspectors to the plant. ConAgra recalled the products and ceased production in the implicated processing plant. FDA is working to identify the root source of the contamination in order to prevent similar foodborne illness outbreaks from recurring.
CONCLUSION

FDA is working hard to ensure the safety of food, in collaboration with its Federal, state, local, and international food safety partners, and with industry and all its other stakeholders. The American food supply continues to be among the safest in the world. We have made progress, and we will continue to strive to reduce the incidence of foodborne illness.

Thank you for the opportunity to discuss FDA’s continuing efforts to improve the safety of fresh produce. I am happy to answer any questions.

Note: Fresh-cut is defined as fruits and vegetables that have been minimally processed and altered in form, by peeling, slicing, chopping, shredding, coring, or trimming, with or without washing or other treatment, prior to being packaged for use by the consumer or a retail establishment. Minimally processed fruits and vegetables have not undergone steps designed to kill pathogens that may be present.
Additional Information

FDA Issues Final Guidance For Safe Production of Fresh-Cut Fruits And Vegetables
(Press Release, March 12, 2007)

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SPI Statemetn on FDA’s 2007 Funding Cuts for Food Contact Notification

February 13, 2006

Contact:
Tracy Cullen
(202) 974-5282
tcullen@plasticsindustry.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. (February 13, 2006) – The Food and Drug Administration released its budget request for Fiscal Year 2007 on February 6, 2006. While the almost $2 trillion Federal budget would increase from 2006, new priorities would eclipse the future of the $6M Food Contact Notification Program. As drafted, FDA’s budget would eliminate the FCN program and redirect those funds to programs with higher priorities.

The Society of the Plastics Industry’s Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Packaging Materials Committee Executive Director Susan Howe issued the following statement:

“The Food and Drug Administration’s decision to cut funding for its Food Contact Notification (FCN) program is another blow to American manufacturing. The net effect will reduce U.S. competitiveness in a global marketplace as well as stifle innovative technologies to enhance food safety for American consumers.

“The Society of the Plastics Industry is spearheading an allied-industry coalition to obtain the necessary funding to continue the FDA’s Food Contact Notification program in 2007. SPI’s Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Packaging Materials Committee will lead the industry’s efforts.

“If enacted, the elimination of the FCN program would have an enormous detrimental impact on the ability of all manufacturers to obtain clearances for new food-contact materials to be introduced in the U.S. marketplace. FCNs become effective within 120 days of filing, unless FDA considers the submission incomplete or objects to the notification. Furthermore, if the program is eliminated, new food-contact substances and new uses of food-contact substances that do not qualify for an exemption from pre-market review will need to be cleared through the food additive petition process, which can take up to five years.

“Prior to the FCN program FDA took between two and five years to finalize the rulemaking needed to complete the petition process. If the industry were forced to rely soley on petitions, the delay would severely impact the innovation of new and safer food packaging materials. In addition, if the program is suspended, manufacturers and suppliers would lose the proprietary advantage of the FCN program because petitions result in regulations that may be relied on by any company.”

The NPE2009 international plastics exposition will take place June 22-26, 2009 at Chicago’s McCormick Place. A total of 2,000 companies will exhibit on 1,000,000 sq.ft. (93,000 sq.m), more than a third of them coming directly from outside the U.S. About 75,000 plastics professionals from 120 countries are expected to register. The event is produced by the Society of the Plastics Industry, Inc. (SPI). Co-located with NPE2009 will be the Society of Plastics Engineers’ ANTECTM 2009, the world?s largest plastics technical conference, and Gardner Publications’ MoldMaking ExpoTM 2009 show and conference. Visit http://www.npe.org.

Founded in 1937, SPI is the plastics industry trade association representing the third largest manufacturing industry in the United States. SPI’s member companies represent the entire plastics industry supply chain, including processors, machinery and equipment manufacturers and raw materials suppliers. The U.S. plastics industry employs 1.1 million workers and provides nearly $379 billion in annual shipments.

http://www.plasticsindustry.org/AboutSPI/NewsItem.cfm?ItemNumber=929

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Bush 2007 Budget Cuts $36 Billion from Medicare, $12 Billion from Medicaid

Feb. 6, 2006 – President Bush today released his budget proposal for 2007, which includes proposals to “save an estimated $36 billion over five years in Medicare.” The statement on Medicare and Medicaid says, “The key to preserving the promise of Medicare for America’s seniors and disabled is to enhance the long-term fiscal solvency of the program.” The cuts proposed for Medicaid reduce costs by $12 billion. Major new expenditures in Health Care are aimed at fighting the flu pandemic.

More Cuts in Medicare Coming Monday in Bush 2007 Budget

New York Times reporting Bush will target spending linked to aging population

Feb. 5, 2006 – Senior citizens, still reeling from billions of dollars cut from Medicare and Medicaid by the Congress last week, are in for more bad news this week. The New York Times has published articles about the 2007 budget to be proposed by President Bush tomorrow and says there are more big cuts to Medicare ahead, including a provision that increases “premiums for high-income people, beyond those already scheduled to take effect next year.” Read more…

The FY 2007 Budget, according to the Administration’s statement, “includes proposals that would strengthen Medicare’s financial viability, encouraging prudent choice of health care needs by beneficiaries. The proposals would reduce excessive government spending and save money for most beneficiaries, while also encouraging providers to increase productivity and efficiency. The Administration wants to ensure that Medicare continues to provide quality care to current and future beneficiaries.”

For Medicaid, the budget proposal says, “The Budget projects that $2.8 trillion in Federal dollars will be spent over the next decade on Medicaid’s mission of providing needed medical services to low-income Americans. “Over that same period, reforms proposed in the 2007 Budget will save almost $12 billion. In 2007, Medicaid is projected to provide health coverage and services to nearly 53 million low-income children, pregnant women, elderly, and disabled individuals.”

Below is the complete budget statement and proposal on the Health Care section of the Budget. For all the details, go to http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/.

Health

The President’s 2007 Budget continues the successful pro-growth policies that have encouraged robust economic growth and job creation. A strong economy, together with spending restraint, is critical to reducing the deficit. The Budget builds on last year’s successful spending restraint by again holding the growth of overall discretionary spending below inflation, proposing to reduce non-security discretionary spending below the previous year’s level, and calling for the elimination or reduction of programs not getting results or not fulfilling essential priorities. Like last year, the budget proposes savings and reforms to mandatory spending programs, whose unsustainable growth poses the real long-term danger to our fiscal health.

To make our economy stronger, the President believes we must make health care more affordable, ensure workers can find affordable care, and give families greater access to good coverage and more control over their health decisions. The 2007 Budget furthers the President’s commitment to extend the benefits of modern medicine, control the rising costs of medical care, and give more Americans access to health insurance.

The President’s FY 2007 Budget:

? Builds on the President’s health insurance reform proposals to promote Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and to expand coverage to more Americans with limited incomes.

? Proposes a new financing measure to strengthen Medicare’s sustainability.

? Continues the President’s November 1, 2005, commitment to obtain $7.1 billion from the Congress to improve pandemic influenza preparedness.

? Provides nearly $160 million to support advanced development of biodefense countermeasures to be considered for procurement under Project BioShield.

? Provides access to health care through more than 300 new and expanded Health Center sites, including 80 new sites in counties that have a high prevalence of poverty.

Supporting Affordable Health Care:

? The Budget highlights the President’s comprehensive, patient-focused plan to help reduce the rising cost of health care and to improve health quality and safety. These reforms will provide new and affordable health coverage options for all Americans—targeted to those who need it most: low-income children and families, the chronically ill, employees of small businesses, and the self-employed.

? The plan includes:

? Encouraging Health Savings Accounts:

> Tax Parity – High-deductible health plans would be more affordable if there were tax parity between employer-sponsored insurance and insurance purchased by individuals. The Budget proposes to allow all individuals who purchase a high-deductible health plan in conjunction with an HSA to deduct the amount of the health plan’s premium from their income and payroll taxes. Additionally, income tax deductible contributions to an individual’s HSA would also be exempt from payroll taxes, which are paid by almost all workers.

>  Increasing the maximum contribution – Under this proposal, a person could contribute—without paying income or payroll taxes on the contribution—up to the plan’s out-of-pocket maximum, which is generally higher than the deductible.

>  Portable HSA-qualified high-deductible health plans – The Budget proposes to increase portability of health insurance by allowing employers to offer and employees to select portable HSA-compatible health plans. These policies would not be subject to onerous State mandates or regulations and would build on the proposal to create a national marketplace for health insurance.

? Reforming the Health Insurance Market:

>  Association Health Plans (AHPs) – To improve access to health benefits for workers in small businesses, the President has called for legislation to create Association Health Plans (AHPs), which would allow small businesses to join together through industry and professional associations to purchase affordable health benefits for their workers. In addition, the President supports expanded AHPs, which would be available to civic, faith-based, and community organizations.

>  Permitting the Purchase of Health Insurance Across State Lines – The Administration proposes creating a national marketplace to allow individuals to shop for the best buy on health coverage no matter which state they live in.

? Focusing on the Chronically Ill:

>  Grants to States – $500 million annually for which States will compete to fund innovative ways to promote affordable insurance among the chronically ill.

>  HSA Contributions – The 2007 Budget proposes to change “comparability” rules to allow employers to contribute additional amounts to the HSAs of chronically-ill employees or their dependents.

? Addressing the Uninsured:

>  Cover the Kids – $100 million annually in grants for a national outreach campaign to enroll additional eligible children in Medicaid and SCHIP through combining the resources of the Federal Government, States, schools, and community organizations.

>  Tax credit for low-income individuals – The 2007 Budget proposes the creation of a refundable tax credit that would be available to those buying an HSA-compatible high-deductible health plan.

Strengthening Biodefense and Food Defense:

? Nearly $1.9 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to invest in research for biodefense countermeasures, helping create promising products to protect Americans against the threat of a terrorist attack. These include:

>  Nearly $50 million for chemical countermeasure development and $47 million for radiological and nuclear countermeasure development;

>  Nearly $160 million for advanced development of medical countermeasures against threats of bioterrorism.

? $70 million for a mass casualty care initiative to address the type of medical response needs seen during Hurricane Katrina. This initiative includes:

>  $50 million to purchase and store deployable medical care units, including medical supplies and equipment that the Federal Government can deliver to an affected area.

>  $20 million to enhance the Medical Reserve Corps and provide prior training and verification of credentials to ensure the availability of health care providers during such an emergency.

? $1.3 billion to bolster State, local, and hospital preparedness, including

>  $25 million for a targeted, competitive demonstration program to establish a state-of-the-art emergency care capability in one or more metropolitan areas.

? $242 million for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), of which $178 million is for food defense. This represents a $20 million increase for food defense that the FDA will use to develop testing methods to identify the presence of contamination quickly and accurately, and to improve its ability to respond once an incident has occurred. Each of these activities will be coordinated with USDA, which will invest an additional $322 million in 2007, to protect the food and agriculture supply from terrorist attacks.

Improving Community Health Centers:

? $2 billion to complete the President’s commitment to create 1,200 new or expanded Health Center sites and make progress on establishing a Health Center or rural clinic in every high-poverty county in America that lacks a Health Center and can support one. Through this funding, 1.2 million additional individuals will receive health care in 2007 through sites in rural areas and underserved urban neighborhoods.

Improving Medicare and Medicaid:

? Medicare – The FY 2007 Budget includes proposals to save an estimated $36 billion over five years in Medicare. The key to preserving the promise of Medicare for America’s seniors and disabled is to enhance the long-term fiscal solvency of the program. The FY 2007 Budget includes proposals that would strengthen Medicare’s financial viability, encouraging prudent choice of health care needs by beneficiaries. The proposals would reduce excessive government spending and save money for most beneficiaries, while also encouraging providers to increase productivity and efficiency. The Administration wants to ensure that Medicare continues to provide quality care to current and future beneficiaries. These proposals would:

>  increase competition in the payment and acquisition of medical items and services

>  encourage providers to become more efficient and productive in the delivery of care

>  support beneficiaries who are most able to pay to contribute more for their health care costs

>  promote beneficiary receipt of care in the most appropriate medical settings, and

>  reduce improper payments.

? Medicaid – The Budget projects that $2.8 trillion in Federal dollars will be spent over the next decade on Medicaid’s mission of providing needed medical services to low-income Americans. Over that same period, reforms proposed in the 2007 Budget will save almost $12 billion. In 2007, Medicaid is projected to provide health coverage and services to nearly 53 million low-income children, pregnant women, elderly, and disabled individuals.

Promoting Health Information Technology:

? The President’s budget would help meet his goal of assuring most Americans have electronic health records by 2014.

? $169 million to accelerate progress in Health Information Technology (HIT), including:

>  $116 million for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology to address barriers to the adoption of interoperable health information technology nationally, which will reduce costs and medical errors, improve quality, and produce greater value for health care expenditures.

>  $50 million for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to extend State contract work for HIT demonstrations and initiate an Ambulatory Patient Safety Program that will speed the adoption of health information technology in ambulatory settings while increasing our understanding of the tools and processes needed to optimize the intersection between improved care and health IT implementation.

>  $3.5 million in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation for tracking and analyzing national HIT adoption rates.

Battling HIV/AIDS and Addiction:

? $4 billion for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, an increase of more than $740 million, to further strengthen international efforts to combat AIDS through support for comprehensive prevention strategies and lifesaving treatments.

? $188 million for a domestic initiative to focus Federal resources on HIV-testing, medical care, and outreach, with the goal of getting medicine to those who need it, and sharply increasing testing to reduce transmission and the future burden of the disease. This includes $70 million to help States end the waiting list for AIDS medication. The Budget also calls for reauthorization of the Ryan White CARE Act, making it more responsive to the HIV/AIDS epidemic today and the African-American and other minority communities who disproportionately suffer from the disease.

? $98 million for grants to States and Tribal Organizations to provide Access to Recovery Vouchers, which enable addicted and recovering individuals to personally choose from a range of effective treatment and recovery support options, including faith-based and community providers. Within this amount, $25 million will be targeted to help individuals recover from methamphetamine abuse.

Protecting the Nation from the Threat of an Influenza Pandemic:

? $2.3 billion for pandemic influenza preparedness, including investment in international health surveillance and containment efforts; medical stockpiles; the domestic capacity to produce emergency supplies of pandemic vaccine and antiviral medications; and preparedness at all levels of government. This is in addition to two emergency supplemental requests that also contributed to pandemic influenza prevention and preparedness.

? $48 million for global disease surveillance and control;

? $474 million across the Government to further improve readiness;

? $352 million for continued implementation of the pandemic influenza preparedness plan at HHS. Of this,

>  $188 million will allow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to improve public health surveillance both domestically and abroad, establish quarantine stations, develop diagnostic tests to identify potential pandemic influenza strains rapidly, and work with foreign governments to help prevent the spread of a pandemic;

>  $35 million for NIH to conduct clinical trials of pandemic influenza vaccine;

>  $50 million for the FDA to improve the Agency’s ability to review new pandemic influenza vaccines and drugs rapidly while assuring their safety and effectiveness, and to maintain a library of virus strains to facilitate the rapid manufacture of vaccines as the virus evolves; and

>  $79 million in the HHS Office of the Secretary for international activities for development and deployment of rapid tests for detection, and risk communication.

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http://seniorjournal.com/NEWS/Medicare/6-02-06-Bush2007Budget.htm

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Grocery Manufacturers Association Appoints Robert E. Brackett Senior Vice President and Chief Science and Regulatory Affairs Officer
2007-11-01 – Grocery Manufacturers Association

NPICenter

(Washington, D.C.) Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) president and CEO, Cal Dooley, today announced the appointment of Robert E. Brackett, Ph.D., as Senior Vice President and Chief Science and Regulatory Affairs Officer.

“I am delighted to welcome Bob to the GMA team,” said Cal Dooley. “His demonstrated leadership, deep experience in the food safety arena and his academic background will help GMA and its member companies continue to deliver on their promise to provide consumers with safe, abundant and affordable food.”

Brackett currently serves as Director of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN), a position he has held since 2004. Prior to his appointment as CFSAN Director, he also served as the Director of Food Safety and Security, and as Senior Microbiologist at the center.

Prior to joining the FDA, Dr. Brackett served as a professor at the University of Georgia’s Center for Food Safety, and as an assistant professor at North Carolina State University’s Extension Foods and Nutrition division.

“I am honored to join the Grocery Manufacturers Association, and look forward to working with Cal Dooley and the association’s staff and members to advance the organization’s mission,” said Bob Brackett.

Brackett is the recipient of numerous professional awards, and holds a Ph.D. and a Masters degree in food microbiology from the University of Wisconsin. He also earned his Bachelor’s degree in Bacteriology from the University of Wisconsin.

In his new position, Dr. Brackett will report to GMA president and CEO, Cal Dooley, and will oversee all of the association’s scientific and regulatory activity, including the operation of its in-house food safety laboratory.

http://www.npicenter.com/anm/templates/newsATemp.aspx?articleid=19798&zoneid=3

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Robert E. Brackett, PhD: An Interview with FDA’s Director of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition

Food Insight
March/April 2006

Q     What is your scientific background, and what led you to join the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)?
A     My scientific background is in microbiology, with a bachelor’s degree in bacteriology and a masters and PhD. in food microbiology. The reason I joined the FDA was due to my interactions with FDA scientists. I spent almost 20 years in academia and was intrigued by the challenge of regulatory science and so was enticed to come to FDA.

Q     How would you describe the state of safety of the food supply today?
A     I think that food has never been safer than it is today, despite the fact that you hear more about safety issues. I think that’s due more to awareness of food safety issues and less to amount of actual illness. I’d also like to mention food defense, which is the top priority for the agency. I don’t think there’s a reason for alarm on behalf of the consumers, although I do think that they should realize that this is an important issue and one that the Administration is following up on and takes very seriously.

Q     Considering recent budget cuts at FDA, how has that changed FDA’s food priorities if at all?
A     This hasn’t really changed priorities at all at FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN). What we have done, however, is set up priorities such that the issues that have the highest public health significance are always addressed first, with less effort being expended on issues where we may have a regulatory responsibility but which have little or no public health impact. It is a risk-based approach, both in terms of acute risks, such as foodborne illness that might occur from microorganisms, as well as long-term risks from chemical contaminants or chronic conditions due to improper nutrition.

Q     Should consumers be concerned or confident given these changes in budget?
A     I think consumers should remain confident in the food supply. The last thing that CFSAN wants to do is reduce the safety of any of the foods that consumers would purchase.

Q     Where does consumer education fit into your priorities?
A     Consumer education fits in with CFSAN priorities in several ways. First, there is nutrition. The Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA) specifically mandates education, but we also think that consumer education is part of the solution to food safety problems in that it provides consumers with the information needed to empower themselves against foodborne illness.

Q     How does consumer research on perceptions and attitudes and understanding of food regul¬ ation fit into CFSAN’s priorities and mission?
A     I think consumer research has been highly underutilized in the past in not only evaluating but driving regulatory priorities. Before an agency makes decisions on changes to regulations or guidance, it is important to know what impact those changes could have on the target audience, in this case consumers. As resources permit, I would like to do much more in the area of consumer research.

Q     Talk to us about the evolution and changing face of the food label.
A     The Nutrition Facts Panel (NFP) was actually an outcome of NLEA and was developed in response to the large amount of confusion that consumers experienced in trying to figure out what their particular food contained in terms of nutrients and calories. The Nutrition Facts Panel allowed for a standardized way to present the nutritional content of foods in a way that enabled consumers to not only compare foods but use that information to make healthful eating plans. However, what we’re seeing is that consumers are not using the Nutrition Facts Panel in quite the way it was envisioned. While consumers use it to compare foods, we think it could be better used if parts of the information were more prominent, specifically the number of calories and the serving size. We are looking at making the NFP more usable for consumers, specifically with respect to obesity.

The trans fat rule, which requires manufacturers to label the amount of trans fats in food, went into effect in January 2006. That rule has been more successful than we had even imagined and has driven significant changes in the food industry. Has it increased the use of saturated fats? Yes, in some cases. However, we’re hearing that this is in large part due to a limited supply of trans-free fats currently available to the manufacturers. We’re trying to educate the public to not only limit trans fat but also saturated fat. Hopefully that education and increased awareness will drive the formulation of foods lower in both trans and saturated fats.

I think we originally intended for the food label to be used for many different things but specifically meal planning and how people could build more healthful meals and diets. The Nutrition Facts Panel is very useful for specific needs—but we think that with some tweaking and education, it could be used in a much broader way.

Q     What is the obesity solution?
A     In my opinion, there is no one obesity solution. There are obesity solutions. I think it will require educating consumers about how to make better choices, and motivating them to make those choices. It is also going to take changes on the other side of the equation—better exercise habits and burning more calories. Food is just one part of it. I think it’s a behavioral issue and a lifestyle issue, rather than just a food issue.

Q     Talk about the recent Food Allergen Labeling Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA). What is the FDA doing to communicate these changes in labeling?
A     We do have some existing outreach on the implementation of FALCPA but I think our biggest educational challenge right now is communicating to the industry what this means and what their responsibilities are. In general, consumers who are aware that they or a family member have problems with food allergies are already looking for information on the presence of allergens in the foods they purchase, so they’re going to require less education than the general consumer. However, the food-allergic consumer still needs to work with their health care provider as to the best way to manage their allergy. I think those individuals who would have to avoid a specific allergen have already been told by their health care providers or allergists that they should avoid those ingredients. That’s the whole reason for the law, to allow consumers to have the information so they can more easily avoid allergens.

Q     Can you talk about food biotechnology at CFSAN?
A     I think the evidence is overwhelming that biotechnology has been a good thing. However, there have been problems with inappropriate release of biotechnology-derived seeds that have impacted trade, but so far we have seen nothing that has indicated therea safety problem.

Q     What are likely to be the biggest food issues in the next five to ten years?
A     I believe that among the biggest food and nutrition issues in the next five years is globalization of the food supply, particularly in terms of maintaining a safe food supply from multiple sources around the world. I also think that making sure that innovative new products are presented in a safe and wholesome way to the American public will become increasingly important. Conversely, consumers must be educated as to how these new products differ from traditional products and how their storage and preparation differs. And finally, I think overweight and obesity will continue to remain important.

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http://www.ific.org/foodinsight/2006/ma/brackettfi206.cfm

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http://oversight.house.gov/documents/20050216111533-79367.pdf

COMMITTEE ON GOVERNMENT REFORM

The Honorable Lester Crawford, D.V.M, Ph.D.
February 15,2005

I am writing regarding the FDA Budget for FY 2006. Under the budget proposed by the
Administration, the number of FDA employees would decline, reducing the Agency’s inspection
and enforcement capacity.’

These personnel cuts would have a potentially significant impact on American
consumers. Documents submitted by FDA indicate that the proposed budget would result in cuts
in the number of domestic and foreign food safety inspections, cosmetics inspections, foreign
and domestic drug inspections, and inspections of biologic products and vaccines.*

My concern about these cuts is exacerbated by FDA’s recent enforcement record, which
shows that the agency has been unable to adequately protect consumers in important areas. In
recent months, there have been several high profile drugs pulled from the market because of
safety concerns that were not addressed by the ~ ~ e nTche ~cou.nt~ry f aced severe shortfalls of
flu vaccine because of the agency’s inability to adequately address problems at Chiron, the

manufacturer of the ~accineA.~n d several recent studies have shown that overall enforcement in
areas such as drug advertising and biologic and vaccine manufacturing, has declined by over
70% in recent years. 5

***
As of October 6, 2006, 199 persons in 26 states have been infected with E. coli 0157:H7 in an outbreak traced back to fresh spinach. The infection has been severe in affected cases, with at least 102 persons hospitalized, 31 cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome, and three deaths.1
This most recent outbreak is not an isolated occurrence. The outbreak is the 20th outbreak of E. coli in fresh produce since 1995, and the second outbreak specifically linked to spinach. Produce-related outbreaks have doubled from 44 outbreaks in 1998 to 86 in 2004.2 Overall, an estimated 76 million cases of foodborne disease occur each year in the United States, causing about 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths annually.3

http://oversight.house.gov/documents/20061101115143-67937.pdf

***

The Washington Post reported in its piece, Women’s Health Office Funds Cut, that “The administration had requested — and Congress had budgeted — $4 million for the office in fiscal 2007, just as they have for several years running. Last week, however, word came down that the FDA intends to withhold $1.2 million of that, apparently for use elsewhere in the agency. Because the remaining $2.8 million has already been spent or allocated for salaries and started projects, the office must effectively halt further operations for the rest of the year, according to a high-level agency official with knowledge of the budget plan, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official is not authorized to speak publicly.” The story also mentions concerns that any budget cuts might be retribution for the OWH’s support of science-based decision-making on over-the-counter status for Plan B emergency contraception.

http://womenshealthnews.blogspot.com/2007/02/fda-response-to-budget-cuts-for-office.html

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FDA Budget Increase Not Nearly Enough
Date Published: Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

The proposed Food and Drug Administration (FDA) budget increase announced yesterday by President Bush won’t do much to improve the agency’s performance.  Under the new budget, the FDA – which regulates 80% of the nation’s food, drugs, vaccines, and medical devices— will receive $2.4 billion for fiscal year 2009, starting October 1st.   If approved by Congress, this would be a 5.7% increase from the current budget.  Unfortunately, that increase will barely cover scheduled  pay raises and inflation, leaving the FDA with few new resources.

The FDA, which regulates $1.5 trillion of goods, has faced intense scrutiny in the past 18 months following an unusually high number of recalls, including E. coli-contaminated spinach grown in California, salmonella-tainted U.S.-made peanut butter, and contaminated pet-food ingredients imported from China that led to the largest-ever pet-food recall.

Last year, an advisory panel to the FDA issued a scathing review of the FDA and echoed ongoing concerns from groups such as the Institute of Medicine; the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress; and Congressional committees.  The report revealed the agency is so under-funded and –staffed, it’s putting US consumers at risk.  The report went on to detail a wide variety of problems faced by the FDA such as inadequate inspections of manufacturers, depleted staff, increased responsibilities, and an obsolete information technology (IT) system.

“At least there’s not a substantial cut, but the agency won’t be able to do much with food or drug safety,” says William Hubbard, a former FDA associate commissioner who joined other former FDA officials in urging the agency’s budget be doubled over five years.

At a congressional hearing last week, one panel member, former FDA lawyer Peter Barton Hutt, said the agency needs its funding doubled over two years and its employee count increased by 50%.  Under Bush’s proposed budget, the number of full-time FDA employees would jump to 10,501, an increase of 932, or nearly 10%, from fiscal 2007.  The number of full-time positions in the FDA’s foods program would increase to 2,810 in fiscal 2009, but would be down 133 from fiscal year 2005.

The FDA says it plans to work with the industry to improve food safety, do more domestic and foreign food-plant inspections and open an office in China, the source of numerous food-safety problems last year.  The agency’s goals are modest, given the scope of the world food industry, including 136,000 domestic and 189,000 foreign facilities:  Increase inspections of domestic food facilities to 21,964 from 17,038 in fiscal 2007; inspect 200 foreign food facilities, up from 96 two years ago; and maintain inspection rates for foreign food imports.  The agency inspected 1.28% of the 9.4 million shipments that came to the USA in fiscal 2007.  That will drop to 1.26% in fiscal 2009.

Hubbard says there’s a chance that Congress, which has held numerous hearings on food safety in the past year, will bolster the FDA’s budget beyond what Bush has proposed, as it did with the fiscal 2008 budget.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 5th, 2008 at 11:56 am and is filed under Legal News, Pharmaceuticals, Defective Medical Devices, Food Poisoning.

http://www.newsinferno.com/archives/2524

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HHS budget proposal cuts state preparedness, boosts food safety

Feb 4, 2008 (CIDRAP News) – The Bush administration today unveiled a $3.1 trillion budget for the 2009 fiscal year that cuts a number of public health initiatives but includes an increase for the Food and Drug Adminstration’s (FDA’s) food safety efforts.

The proposed spending plan would take effect in October 2008, the start of the next fiscal year. Details of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) component of the budget were announced at a press conference today by HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt. “We have crafted a fiscally responsible budget at a very challenging time,” he said.

The HHS share of the budget is $737 billion, an increase of $29 billion from 2008, HHS said in press release today. However, the amount decreases discretionary spending by $2.2 billion.

Proposed cuts for CDC
Trust for America’s Health, a nonprofit health advocacy group based in Washington, DC, expressed concern over what it described as an overall 7% cut for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The cutback, TFAH said in a press release today, represents a 6-year low for discretionary funding for the agency.

“At a time when healthcare costs are skyrocketing, we should be investing more to keep Americans healthy instead of cutting funds for disease prevention,” said Jeff Levi, PhD, executive director of TFAH, in the press release.

The cuts would impair state and local preparedness efforts, TFAH said. Cuts of $97.2 million from the Prevention Health and Health Services Block Grant program would dry up funding that states use to run disease prevention programs, the group said. The new budget would cut $136.7 million from state and local bioterrorism and emergency preparedness efforts and reduce hospital emergency preparedness programs by $61.9 million, according to TFAH.

“The administration has cut these programs over the past 5 years, reducing the funding level by one-third,” said TAFH in its press release.

More for FDA food monitoring
The budget proposal includes a $42 million increase for food safety initiatives announced by the FDA in November 2007, raising total FDA food safety spending to $662 million, according to HHS. The initiatives were spurred by recent cases of tainted imports as well as contamination in domestic food products, such as Salmonella in peanut butter and Escherichia coli in fresh produce. The funding would expand staffing and resources at food production and handling sites, the FDA said today in a press release. The budget provisions would increase the total number of full-time FDA staff by 526.

At a press conference today, budget officials from the FDA said the proposal would establish an FDA food safety office in China.

The proposed budget provides $29.5 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support research. But TFAH said the administration’s plan would “flat-fund” biomedical research at the NIH.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), in a 29-page budget briefing today, reported that funds for biodefense and emerging infectious disease research would drop by $7.5 million. The agency said it would move funds in those research areas from research and development contracts to the intramural research program to partially offset projected increased operating costs for new biodefense containment facilities that will be opening in Ft Detrick, Md., and Hamilton, Mont.

For bioterrorism preparedness, the budget allocation of $4.3 billion includes $250 million for developing medical countermeasures for the national stockpile. It also sets aside $53 million to establish five new international quarantine stations and fully staff all 20 domestic stations, according to the HHS press release. Also, the budget includes $30 million to expand, train, exercise, and coordinate medical emergency teams, including two Commissioned Corps Health and Medical Response (HAMR) teams designed to respond to real or potential threats, HHS said.

Pandemic preparedness funds
The budget contains $507 million for the next phase of the administration’s influenza pandemic preparedness plan, including funds to expand egg-based vaccine capacity and buy medical countermeasures and supplies for HHS employees and patients, according to HHS. In addition, $313 million is proposed for ongoing pandemic preparedness efforts at the CDC, FDA, NIH, and the Office of the HHS Secretary.

In a 120-page budget briefing today, HHS said Congress did not appropriate $870 million requested by the president last year to implement the nation’s pandemic preparedness plan. “The Administration is still considering options regarding this funding, and will reach out to Congress soon,” HHS said.

The 2008 omnibus spending bill passed by Congress in December earmarked only $76 million for influenza pandemic preparedness funding, far below the Bush administration’s $870 million request. The House and Senate appropriations committees had said their reason for cutting the 2008 pandemic budget was that $1.2 billion was left over from previous appropriations, according to previous media reports. However, Rich Hamburg, director of governmental relations for TFAH, said at the time that the $1.2 billion represented one-time funding that was mostly intended for buying vaccines and antiviral medications.

At the press conference, Leavitt said the budget proposal provides for an initiative to improve the nation’s inadequate supply of ventilators, which he said cost from $8,000 to $10,000 apiece and require highly trained operators. He said the budget includes $25 million to develop a new generation of ventilator that will be portable, will cost 90% less, and will not require specialized training to operate.

“This effort will help fill the gap to ensure our nation has an adequate number of ventilators in the event of a public health emergency,” HHS said in its press release.

See also:

Feb 4 HHS press release

Feb 4 FDA press release

Feb 4 TFAH press release

HHS budget briefing

NIAID budget briefing

Dec 20, 2007, CIDRAP News story “Congress slashes pandemic preparedness funding”

http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/cidrap/content/influenza/biz-plan/news/feb0408budget.html

***

Related Topics:

* Restaurants
*  |  Restaurant Inspection & Licensing

* Health Departments
*  |  Public Health Administration
*  |  Counties
*  |  Government Budgets
*  |  US State Government
*  |  Inspections
*  |  County Government

* Colorado, USA

Food safety victim of El Paso County budget cuts
By Gillentine, Amy
Publication: The Colorado Springs Business Journal
Date: Friday, August 17 2007
You are viewing page 1

A decline in El Paso County restaurant inspections could leave Pikes Peak region residents feeling a little queasy.

With more than 2,400 restaurants to check — and a strained budget — the county health department admits that it can’t keep up with state-mandated inspections.

Colorado

ServSafe(R) online course
Food safety training and exam available online.
http://www.ServSafe.com

state law requires that food service establishments be inspected twice a year for cleanliness, food temperature and employee hygiene. The checklist includes hundreds of items.

It’s a big job, and one that isn’t being done correctly in El Paso County. And while illnesses aren’t always tracked, complaints
are.

“And they’ve doubled, tripled, quadrupled,” said Rick Miklich, prevention services division director for the El Paso County Department of Health and Environment. “We investigate the most egregious complaints in 24 hours, but some of them tend to be frivolous. We definitely have more valid complaints now.”

Budget cuts

The county cut the department’s budget several years ago and as it struggles with a $16 million shortfall, the funding has never returned to previous levels — and the health department has been forced to cut staff and reduce services, said Rosemary Bakes-Martin.

“We have a lot of hungry mouths to feed,” said El Paso County Commissioner Jim Bensberg. “And the top of that list is the criminal justice center and the sheriff’s department. Our second largest budget is the Department of Human Services.”

Funding for the health department comes largely from the state and the department falls under the Colorado Department of Public Health, Bensberg said. Any changes in funding should be state-directed.

“Maybe the state needs to step in, and change the funding allocation,” he said. “The health department is the county’s in name only. We only supplement their budget, and it’s my understanding that we do it at a rate higher than state statute requires.”

Unable to meet the state law’s requirements of twice yearly inspections, the department’s goal is to inspect every restaurant once a year. But officials readily admit they aren’t meeting that goal either.

“We’re far from it,” Miklich said. “And from the state mandates. I have a certain ideal in mind — what the ideal food inspection program should be like. But now, we’re struggling. We should be doing more.”

The department says that if it receives no additional funding, it puts businesses at risks. A scenario in which the county’s funding remains flat — as it does for 2008 budget year — increases the need to close restaurants with violations at least temporarily, because the department will be unable to complete quick follow-up inspections.

No state penalties

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment issues no penalties for counties that are unable to comply with state law. Barbara Hruska, director of the consumer protection division, said El Paso County is doing the best it can with limited resources.

“First of all, we know El Paso County is working hard to provide food protection services, and we believe it has a good food protection program,” she said. “We realize there are budget constraints; that’s a problem everywhere, even here at the state level.”

Hruska said the state’s health department does not have “total control” of the county-level systems.

“It’s up to each county to control their resources,” she said. “We believe public health services are best delivered at the local level, but we recognize that each has difficulties and challenges. There are no penalties for not complying.”

Miklich said the department has the support of the county’s restaurant industry, and claims that the relationship isn’t adversarial.

“We don’t go in, issue threats and citations and come back to close them down,” he said. “We see the job as a partnership; we work to educate about how people are out of compliance and document what we do.”

Restaurateur’s point of view

Luke Travins, co-owner of Concept Restaurants — a group that includes downtown eateries Jose Muldoon’s, Old Chicago and The Ritz — said he has not noticed a lack of inspections.

“It’s important to maintain the public health — and someone could get very sick from unhealthy, unclean environments,” he said. “Those protections need to continue.”

And although the department said it sometimes has to delay the opening of new restaurants — or remodeled ones — Travins said inspections for a remodeled Jose Muldoon’s went smoothly, with no delays.

“My restaurants are inspected once or twice a year, with follow-ups if they need them,” he said. “After remodeling Jose’s we went through several inspections before we reopened. They were very prompt, very responsive.”

Rarely, the department issues civil penalties — fines for repeat offenders. And in the most egregious cases, it is able to close the facility.

Triage time

To cope with the decline in dollars, Miklich and his staff created a “triage” system. Places like Starbucks aren’t inspected as often as the Antlers Hilton because the service offered is very different.

“It’s a risk-based system,” he said. “Because our budget is so austere, we’re putting resources where they will do the most good.”

Even complaints from the public are triaged according to importance. Food borne illnesses are taken seriously — when they occur.

“Most people don’t understand how these viruses work, so they call if they get sick immediately after eating,” he said. “It doesn’t work that way. Most illnesses take between 10 and 72 hours.”

Norovirus — caused by direct skin contact with food — is the biggest problem, he said. But issues uncovered during inspections seem to change every few years.

“A few years ago, it was food temperature. People weren’t keeping food hot or cold enough,” Miklich said. “And now, it’s that there’s too much direct skin contact on the food. Food should not be handled; workers should wear gloves.”

Bensberg is skeptical about the department’s triage program.

“I’ll use the example of my favorite neighborhood bar and restaurant,” he said. “They have been inspected twice a year for the past couple of years. But despite those inspections, the health department neglected to tell them about hot water heater requirements. They went through seven kinds of hell trying to meet those regulations — and they’ve never had a single customer complaint.”

To some extent, health department officials agree with Bensberg, recognizing the county’s budget crisis.

“What we want is local control over the fees that we charge for the inspections,” Miklich said. “We think since these services are performed locally, that it makes sense to control the fees. But we don’t have any control over them, and the fees set by the state do not cover the costs of the inspections.”

Credit: Amy Gillentine
http://www.allbusiness.com/government/government-bodies-offices-regional-local/8907937-1.html

***

Budget cuts prompt public awareness of food safety

John DeWeese

The King County Council, due to budget cutbacks, has decided that every restaurant will receive only two routine inspections this year, and restaurant employees will receive one educational visit.

Because of the cutback, the King County Board of Health has been working to get the word out about safe dining.

Food-borne illness is a serious problem that affects up to 80 million Americans per year. Last year, an average of 9,000 Americans died from food poisoning.

The King County Board of Health is responsible for protecting customers who dine in Seattle. Forty food safety inspectors are responsible for inspecting 10,000 establishments. In addition, the Board of Health is responsible for providing training and testing for food workers.

According to Sharon Smith, acting senior environmental health specialist, food service is hard to regulate. The turnover rate among employees is extremely high in the industry, and while every employee is required to carry a food worker card, some workers remain ignorant of safety issues.

Smith recommended that students protect themselves when dining out. The most effective way to protect oneself form food-borne illnesses is to watch how workers handle food during preparation.

Smith added that while hairnets are not required by law, workers must have hair restrained and gloves are required in various restaurants where food is directly handed to the customer.

“Hand washing is coming to the forefront of food-borne illness. If there is one message I need to convey, it’s the importance of washing before handling food,” Smith said.

Cleanliness when handling food is even more important than the general cleanliness of a restaurant’s bathroom or tables. During an inspection, problems involving food storage or preparation are given “red critical violations” and are weighted more heavily than a dirty floor or a messy bathroom..” Restaurants can be closed if they have more than 75 red violations, or the same red violation in three different inspections.

According to Smith, many health code violations that do not involve food, such as dirty floors and bathrooms, give the establishment a “black violation.”

Besides how restaurant employees handle food, problems can occur in food service. Smith said it is important to check food temperature, especially at a buffet.

“It’s common sense, but cold food should be cold and hot food hot” Smith said. The danger zone when virus or bacteria can easily infect food is between 45 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

Rare meat and undercooked chicken and pork are also obvious dangers. However, Dr Alicia Dixon-Docter, a nutritionist at Hall Health, warned against being overconfident when ordering vegetarian and organic food instead.

“Students need to be careful when eating soy products or alfalfa. Students who prefer organic should still make sure eggs and fruit juices are pasteurized,” Dixon-Docter said.

Dr Dixon-Docter also emphasized the higher risk when eating raw seafood.

“Sushi and raw shellfish are a big problem. Stay with restaurants that people recommend,” Dixon-Docter said. .If a restaurant is committing violations, a customer has a number of options. Smith’s advice is to make an on-the-spot correction by talking with a manager. If the problem is not immediately corrected, customers can make a complaint to the health department.

Copyright©2000 The Daily University of Washington
http://archives.dailyuw.com/2001/011701/N2.Healthdepa.html
Budget cuts prompt public awareness of food safety
Budget cuts prompt public awareness of food safety … The University of Washington Student Newspaper Wednesday, January 17, 2001 …

***
http://www.albionmonitor.net/0104a/dirtybushbudget.html
by Cat Lazaroff

In all, the Bush budget would cut about $8 billion for previously funded projects and programs, to help the administration reach its goal of a $1.6 trillion tax cut over the next 10 years.

The budget “makes clear he leaves no room for essential national needs and wants to cut scores of services and programs vital to the well being of millions of families to pay for his tax cut,” warned House Democratic leader Richard Gephardt of Missouri.

Among the funding cuts are $162 million for the Wetlands Reserve program, which provides technical and financial assistance to farmers who wish to restore and protect agricultural wetlands. Energy efficiency research programs would be cut by 30 percent, and renewable energy programs by 40 percent.

The Smithsonian Institution, which operates 14 museums in Washington, DC and New York City, the National Zoo, and research facilities around the country, would be forced to close its Conservation and Research Center in Front Royal, Virginia, where endangered species are studied and bred in captivity.

In contrast, the Department of Defense would see its budget rise by $14.2 billion, to $310.5 billion in 2002. Education Department funding would climb from $39.9 billion in 2001 to $44.5 billion in 2002.

The Bush budget, “cuts environmental enforcement, fails to provide enough funding for the National Science Foundation and cuts support for small businesses,” said Gephardt. “The President is also beholden to energy producers, and his budget seems to reflect this priority by cutting energy research and development.”
Some  of the largest cuts in the president’s budget proposal are in the alternative energy sector. The budget provides $19.0 billion in 2002, which is $700 million, or three percent, below the 2001 budget.

Those funding reductions are largely achieved through cuts in renewable energy research and development programs, which would lose more than $277 million in funds. Energy efficiency programs, with the exception of the home weatherization program, would be cut by up to 50 percent.

Critics called the budget’s priorities skewed.

“This proposal is the opposite one would expect from an administration that has used the word “crisis” to describe our current energy situation,” said Senator Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, the top Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “This is an anti-energy policy budget.”

Meanwhile, research into cleaner coal technologies would gain $2 billion over 10 years. More than $1.5 billion would be provided for the design and development of new nuclear weapons.

Funding for nuclear power expansion would increase, while funds for cleanups at existing nuclear sites would be slashed.

“These draconian cuts will have significant consequences for consumers,” said Susanna Drayne, coordinator of the Sustainable Energy Coalition. “For example, energy efficiency and renewable energy activities that currently save consumers more than $30 billion a year will perish. Research and development will decrease for super efficient cars, appliances, heating and cooling systems, windows, and lighting products. And efforts to improve and make renewable energy sources such as solar energy, geothermal generation, and wind power more affordable will be severely limited.”

Bush pledged to provide future funding for some alternative energy research through anticipated revenues from opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and other public lands to energy exploration. Beginning in 2004, the budget would dedicate $1.2 billion from ANWR leases to fund increased research on solar and renewable energy technology research and development.

The budget continues funding for the Energy Star program that supports energy efficient building design and technologies for industry and school buildings. The controversial Partnership for the Next Generation of Vehicles, a 10 year research and development program to develop cars that achieve 85 miles per gallon with low emissions, also receives continued funding.
The  Interior Department’s budget makes good on one of Bush’s environmental campaign promises by fully funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) at $900 million.

The LWCF gives money from offshore oil and gas exploration leases to the states for use in conservation programs. But critics say the states have too much discretion in how the funds are used, so that much of the money could be used for projects like new roads and docks, rather than land protection.

In another campaign pledge, the budget would eliminate the National Park Service (NPS) deferred maintenance backlog within five years and implement management reforms, in part by directing a greater percentage of existing user fees to address the backlog. The budget includes a $61.1 million increase in appropriations for construction and maintenance projects, and a commitment to dedicate an additional $40 million in fee receipts to backlog projects, for a total budget of $439.6 million for deferred maintenance.

“This budget will enable the National Park Service to continue conserving our parks, monuments, and historic sites,” said NPS Acting Director Denis Galvin. ” Full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund will also place us in a strong position to provide new tools to local communities, states and tribes that will allow them to pursue additional recreation and conservation opportunities for citizens.”

But Thomas Kiernan, president of the nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association, says the president’s budget in reality provides little money for protecting the parks’ natural resources, while devoting too much to so called “brick and mortar” projects such as road and building maintenance.

Just $20 million is proposed for the Park Service’s Natural Resource Challenge, a multi-year action plan to provide a level of information critical to sound management of natural resources in parks, for example.

“Giving the Park Service only $20 million for resource needs is like putting a patient on life support and providing no electricity,” Kiernan said. “We will continue to lose plant and animal species and historic and cultural artifacts and national parks also will continue to suffer from degrading air quality.”

Overall, the Interior Department’s budget falls $400 million, from $10.2 billion in 2001 to $9.8 billion in 2002. The budget focuses on controversial fire management programs aimed at reducing fuel loads on public lands, and on incentive programs aimed at encouraging private conservation efforts.

Funding for oil and gas exploration on public lands would rise. The budget proposes an increase of $15 million for the Bureau of Land Management to expand energy and mineral activities including energy resource surveys, coalbed methane permitting preparation, preparation for lease sales in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska and planning for leasing in parts of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would get $1.09 billion, down $167.9 million from 2001 funding. The budget includes $112 million for Endangered Species programs, including $2 million more than currently available for endangered species listing.

For  the first time, the budget request includes funding for two grant programs that would provide incentives to encourage habitat conservation by landowners. The Landowner Incentive Program provides $50 million for matching grants to states, tribes and territories, to provide technical and financial assistance for landowners who voluntarily participate in the habitat protection.

An additional $10 million would be used to create a Private Stewardship Grant Program to assist individuals or groups involved in voluntary habitat protection or conservation.

One department that would see major funding reductions is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps has faced repeated accusations of violating federal regulations and wasting millions on unneeded projects over the past two years.

The Corps’ budget falls from $4.5 billion in 2001 to $3.9 billion in 2002. Given the large backlog of funding needed to complete construction projects already underway – more than $21 billion in the Construction, General account alone – the budget focuses on completing ongoing projects, rather than starting construction of new projects.

Among the projects that received continued funding is the flood control program in the Mississippi River and its tributaries. The program would receive $280 million to fund the study, design construction, operation and maintenance of controversial water resources projects including new locks and dams.

The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), a construction industry group, decried the loss of Army Corps funds, but said the budget is generally friendly to builders.

“President Bush’s budget proposal is a good start to addressing the tremendous investment that is needed for our nation’s infrastructure,” said Stephen Sandherr, chief executive officer of AGC. “President Bush is an advocate for improving our nation’s quality of life.”

The AGC noted with approval that the Bush budget offers $1 billion boosts for highway funds and airport expansions, $300 million more for military construction, and $400 million for transit programs.

AGRICULTURE
Discretionary funds for the Department of Agriculture, set at $19.4 billion in 2001, would fall to $17.9 billion in 2002. But most of that loss – nearly $1 billion – would be the elimination of disaster related projects that were funded this year.

The remaining cuts are largely in farmland conservation programs. Programs to be zeroed out include those that offer farmers incentives to protect water supplies, create wildlife habitat on farmland, and permanently protect their farmland from sprawling development.

The programs being cut, including the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program, Farmland Protection Program, Wetlands Reserve Program and others, comprised less than four percent of total farm spending of $32 billion in fiscal year 2001. Even that funding was not enough to fulfill all the requests for assistance: For the program that encourages farmers to restore wetlands alone, three out of every four farmers requesting assistance were rejected due to lack of funds.

“At a time when the world is getting a much clearer view of the many links between good conservation practices, food, farmland and quality of life, funding these conservation programs is more important than ever,” argued Ann Sorensen, head of research at the American Farmland Trust’s Center for Agriculture in the Environment at Northern Illinois University. “America’s farmers aim to be good stewards, but we cannot tell them that they must carry the entire burden of providing environmental benefits for us all.”

http://www.albionmonitor.net/0104a/dirtybushbudget.html

***
Budget Cuts Leave Consumer Safety Net “Frayed”

Sunday’s Cleveland Plain Dealer ran an article by Stephen Koff highlighting a problem OMB Watch has been focusing on for the past few months: declining budgets and staffing levels at federal regulatory agencies.

As a result, agencies are finding it difficult to fulfill their missions, and regulatory failures like collapsing mines, recalled toys, and contaminated food dominate headlines. From the article:

The broader safety net – protecting children from dangerous toys, adults from tainted spinach and beef, factory workers from chemical dust that can sicken or explode, miners from underground passageways that collapse – has frayed, they say. The government’s own records and statistics bear this out in many ways, showing shrinking agency budgets, personnel rosters that don’t keep pace with inspection demands, and White House rejection of proposed safety rules.

As agency budget and staffing levels have shrunk, regulated entities have grown. In 1981, the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) — the federal regulator in charge of meat, poultry, and egg products — employed about 190 workers per billion pounds of meat and poultry inspected and approved. By 2007, FSIS employed fewer than 88 workers per billion pounds, a 54 percent drop.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has also been unable to keep up with its responsibility to enforce safety regulations in the workplace. In 1980, OSHA had approximately three staff members for every 100,000 American workers. By 2006, it had only 1.5 staff members. In 1980, OSHA and state regulators conducted 1.77 inspections per 100,000 workers. By 2005, OSHA and the states conducted only 0.668 inspections per 100,000 workers — a 62 percent drop.

The resource shortfalls of the Consumer Product Safety Commission have been well-documented; but the situation appears even worse when comparing the agency’s budget and staffing levels to one of the fastest-growing yet most dangerous products it regulates — all-terrain vehicles. In 1988, when CPSC began regulating ATVs after settling a lawsuit with manufacturers, the agency employed more than 36 staff members for every 100,000 four-wheel ATVs in use. By 2004, CPSC employed fewer than seven staff members for every 100,000 ATVs. Meanwhile, old regulations have expired and the Bush administration has stalled the development of new standards.

As Koff points out, the decisions by multiple presidents and congresses to shortchange federal agencies has undermined a long-standing national focus on public protection:

The result: The era of government as consumer protector, born of 1960s and ’70s activism, has faded.

Find out more through OMB Watch’s Bankrupting Government project.
(Matthew Madia 04/07/08)

http://www.ombwatch.org/node/8776

***
White House Involved in EPA’s California Waiver Decision

A report released May 19 by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform concluded the White House improperly intervened in a decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to deny California’s request for a waiver under the Clean Air Act. The waiver would have allowed the state to set standards for greenhouse gas emissions from new vehicles. In denying the waiver, EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson went against the recommendation of EPA staff, who concluded there was no legal or scientific basis to deny the waiver.
(Rick Melberth 05/28/08) Read More >>
http://www.ombwatch.org/taxonomy/term/151?page=5

***

Thursday, February 12, 2009
Administration Oversight
Joint Statement from Chairman Towns and Congressman Clay on the 2010 Census

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Representative Edolphus “Ed” Towns (D-NY), Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and U.S. Representative William Lacy Clay (D-MO), Chairman of the Information Policy, Census and National Archives Subcommittee today released the following statement regarding oversight of the 2010 Census:

“The success of the 2010 Census is of utmost concern for this Committee. We are committed to strict bipartisan oversight of its implementation so that the fairest assessment of the American population is reported.

“The Obama Administration inherited a Census Bureau that has failed to demonstrate its ability to successfully carry out the 2010 Census. We are deeply concerned that the Census Bureau will not be able to complete its constitutionally mandated responsibility to count U.S. residents without immediate and sustained attention from the Administration.

“We have already been warned by GAO that the 2010 Census is in serious trouble and has been placed on GAO’s list of programs at high risk. The Census Bureau still does not know if all of its operations and systems, particularly those that will be used for the first time in 2010, will work together under the pressure of the census. And with the clock ticking – we are less than eleven months away from launching the 2010 Census – the Census Bureau has little time to improve its capabilities.

“Yesterday, the White House clarified its position on the 2010 Census and said that they have no intention of removing the Census from the Commerce Department. The White House also made it clear that they will not interfere with the work of this committee or any Congressional committees with oversight authority. We appreciate the White House’s respect for this Committee’s important work and we intend to conduct bipartisan oversight of the Census.

“The stakes are too high for the 2010 Census to fail. We need to have a Census Bureau director nominated and confirmed as soon as possible. Then we can focus on the important work of organizing the Census Bureau and ensuring that it is prepared to support the activities of the 2010 Census.”

###

The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is the main investigative committee in the U.S. House of Representatives. It has authority to investigate the subjects within the Committee’s legislative jurisdiction as well as “any matter” within the jurisdiction of the other standing House Committees.

http://oversight.house.gov/story.asp?ID=2313

***
Monday, June 26, 2006
Prescription for Harm: The Decline in FDA Enforcement Activity

A new report by Rep. Henry A. Waxman examines how the Bush Administration has carried out FDA’s historic enforcement responsibilities. The report is the result of a 15-month investigation that included a review of thousands of pages of internal agency enforcement records. It finds that there has been a precipitous drop in FDA enforcement actions over the last five years.

In some cases, FDA headquarters rejected the enforcement recommendations of FDA field offices despite findings by agency inspectors that violations led to multiple deaths or serious injuries.

*   FDA enforcement actions have declined under the Bush Administration. The number of warning letters issued by the agency for violations of federal requirements has fallen by over 50%, from 1,154 in 2000 to 535 in 2005, a 15-year low. During the same period, the number of seizures of mislabeled, defective, and dangerous products has declined by 44%.
* FDA headquarters officials have routinely rejected the enforcement recommendations of career field staff. Internal agency documents show that in at least 138 cases over the last five years involving drugs and biological products, FDA failed to take enforcement actions despite receiving recommendations from agency field inspectors describing violations of FDA requirements.
* FDA’s recordkeeping and case tracking practices are inadequate. Although the Federal Records Act and internal agency procedures require FDA to keep records that document agency enforcement decisions, FDA does not appear to comply with these requirements. FDA’s response to Committee requests for relevant enforcement documents was haphazard, incomplete, and untimely. FDA officials explained that FDA could not provide prompt and complete responses because the agency lacks a system that enables it to track enforcement recommendations from field offices.
http://oversight.house.gov/story.asp?ID=1074

***
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Waxman and Kennedy Request GAO Examination of FDA Resource Shortfalls

Today Rep. Henry A. Waxman and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy wrote to Comptroller General of the United States David Walker requesting an examination of the staffing, information technology, and other resources necessary for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to successfully carry out its oversight of foods, drugs, biologics, and medical devices.

Monday, March 26, 2007
Chairman Waxman Seeks Documents Related to a Recent Outbreak of Salmonella in Peanut Butter

As a response to a recent outbreak of Salmonella in peanut butter, Chairman Waxman wrote to FDA Commissioner von Eschenbach asking for documents and information relevant to the outbreak. The Committee is concerned because FDA’s recall extension to 2004 suggests that contaminated products may have been sold to consumers before, during, and after an FDA inspection. Also, the Con Agra plant involved in the outbreak has been inspected with no enforcement action after finding violations.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Committee Raises Questions on FDA Food Safety Efforts

The Oversight Committee and the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture request information from the Food and Drug Administration related to food safety funding, food safety inspections, current guidelines and standards, and current enforcement efforts.

http://oversight.house.gov/investigations.asp?id=123

***
Friday, March 14, 2008
Committee Releases GAO Report on CDC Budget

Chairman Waxman releases a new GAO report, which examines how spending at CDC changed between 2003 and 2006, following the 2005 administrative restructuring of the agency. Among the report’s findings is the fact that spending at the division level, where most funds go to pay for public health projects, declined faster than at the leadership and management levels.

http://oversight.house.gov/documents/20080314110155.pdf

***
Ranking Member
Committee on Agriculture,
Nutrition, and Forestry
United States Senate
The Honorable Chuck Hagel
United States Senate
Foodborne illness in the United States is an extensive and expensive
problem. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates
that unsafe foods cause as many as 76 million illnesses annually. The U.S.
Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that the costs associated
with foodborne illness due to seven pathogens, including salmonella,
campylobacter, and E. coli O157:H7, range up to $37 billion annually.
Federal and state expenditures for activities to help ensure the safety of
the nation’s food supply are also significant, with federal efforts alone
exceeding $1 billion annually. While there are 12 federal agencies with
food safety responsibilities, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service
(FSIS) and the Department of Health and Human Service’s (HHS) Food
and Drug Administration (FDA) are the primary federal regulatory
agencies responsible for food safety. FSIS is responsible for ensuring that
meat, poultry, and processed egg products moving in interstate and
foreign commerce are safe, wholesome, and marked, labeled, and
packaged correctly. FDA is responsible for ensuring that (1) all foods
moving in interstate and foreign commerce, except those under FSIS’
jurisdiction, are safe, wholesome, and labeled properly; and (2) all animal
drugs and feeds are safe, properly labeled, and produce no human health
hazards when used in food-producing animals. In addition, state agencies
conduct inspection and regulation activities that help ensure the safety of
foods produced, processed, or sold within their borders.

February 20, 2001

http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d01177.pdf

***
What GAO Found United States Government Accountability Office Why GAO Did This Study Highlights Accountability Integrity Reliability
Highlights of GAO-08-909T, a testimony before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Committee on Energy and Commerce, House of Representatives

June 12, 2008

FEDERAL OVERSIGHT OFFOOD SAFETY
FDA Has Provided Few Details on the Resources and Strategies Needed to Implement its Food Protection Plan

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for ensuring the safety of roughly 80 percent of the U.S. food supply, including $417 billion worth of domestic food and $49 billion in imported food annually. Changing demographics and consumption patterns along with an increase in imports have presented challenges to FDA. At the same time, recent outbreaks, such as E. coli from spinach and Salmonella from tomatoes, have undermined consumer confidence in the safety of the food supply. In November 2007, FDA released its Food Protection Plan, which articulates a framework for improving food safety oversight. In January 2008, GAO expressed concerns about FDA’s capacity to implement the Food Protection Plan and noted that more specific information about the strategies and resources needed to implement the plan would facilitate congressional oversight.
This testimony focuses on (1) FDA’s progress in implementing the Food Protection Plan, (2) FDA’s proposal to focus inspections based on risk, and (3) FDA’s implementation of previously issued GAO recommendations intended to improve food safety oversight. To address these issues, GAO reviewed FDA documents, such as FDA’s operations plan, and FDA data related to the plan. GAO also interviewed FDA officials regarding the progress made. GAO also analyzed FDA data on domestic and foreign food firm inspections. GAO also analyzed the status of past recommendations.

Since FDA’s Food Protection Plan was first released in November 2007, FDA has added few details on the resources and strategies required to implement the plan. FDA plans to spend about $90 million over fiscal years 2008 and 2009 to implement several key actions, such as identifying food vulnerabilities and risk. From the information GAO has obtained on the Food Protection Plan, however, it is unclear what FDA’s overall resource need is for implementing the plan, which could be significant. For example, based on FDA estimates, if FDA were to inspect each of the approximately 65,500 domestic food firms regulated by FDA once, the total cost would be approximately $524 million. In addition, timelines for implementing the various strategies in the plan are also unclear, although a senior level FDA official estimated that the overall plan will take 5 years to complete. Importantly, GAO has noted that public reporting is the means through

http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d08909t.pdf

FDA has implemented few of GAO’s past recommendations to leverage its resources and improve food safety oversight. Since 2004, GAO has made a total of 34 food safety related recommendations to FDA, and as of May 2008, FDA has implemented 7 of these recommendations.

http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d08909t.pdf

June 12, 2008

FEDERAL OVERSIGHT OFFOOD SAFETY
FDA Has Provided Few Details on the Resources and Strategies Needed to Implement its Food Protection Plan

As shown in table 1, the plan outlines spending on all three core elements of the Food Protection Plan––a total of about $21 million for prevention, about $34 million for intervention, and about $23 million for response for fiscal years 2008 and 2009. FDA also reported that, in fiscal year 2008, the agency intends to hire nearly 1,500 full time equivalents (FTE), including approximately 730 to fill vacant positions. Of these, 161 will be new FTEs funded by congressional increases dedicated to food safety activities. In addition, in fiscal year 2009, FDA plans to hire 94 new FTEs for food safety activities.
From pp.5

***
My note – what the hell is a “full-time equivalent”? Does that mean a part-time employee with less education than is necessary to be paid less than appropriate and then worked full-time to cover four people’s work load?

***

http://www.gao.gov/docsearch/locate?searched=1&o=0&order_by=date&old_keyword=food+safety+budget+cuts&ft=&search_type=site&add_topic=&remove_topic=&add_type=&remove_type=&add_fed_type=&remove_fed_type=&add_fed_desc=&remove_fed_desc=&add_year=&remove_type=&keyword=food+safety+budget+cuts

Interesting info about food safety funding and recommendations to FDA for corrections to flagrant failures to protect the public – GAO search listings (sort by date – it doesn’t do that automatically without clicking the “by date” link) – ** my note **

***

GAO Report Highlights High-Risk Areas

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released its latest report to Congress Jan. 22 highlighting the wide range of high-risk areas in government that it urges the new Congress and administration to address. The report updates the areas already on GAO’s list and adds three new high-risk areas: the outdated financial regulatory system, medical product oversight and regulation, and toxic chemical assessment.
(Rick Melberth 01/28/09) Read More >>
http://www.ombwatch.org/scientific_integrity

Mixed Grades for Government on Free Speech and Science

A recent report card grading 15 federal agencies found inconsistent policies for releasing scientific information to the public. The analysis also showed that several agencies stifle their scientists’ communication, causing scientists to fear retaliation for speaking their minds. Although some agencies have satisfactory policies or recently improved media policies, it appears much still needs to be done to ensure scientific information gets to the public.
(Brian Turnbaugh 10/21/08) Read More >>

http://www.ombwatch.org/scientific_integrity

EPA’s Assessments of Chemical Dangers — Too Slow

A government investigation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) process for assessing dangerous chemicals concludes the agency is so slow and lacking in credibility that the system is in “serious risk of becoming obsolete.”
(Brian Turnbaugh 09/23/08) Read More >>

FDA Fighting Mounting Evidence on BPA

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continues to claim there is insufficient evidence about the health effects of a chemical widely used in consumer products to justify regulating the substance. Evidence is mounting from a variety of other sources, however, that bisphenol-A (BPA) may affect human development and mental health. FDA continues to advise consumers that there is no reason to “discontinue using products that contain BPA.”
(Rick Melberth 09/09/08) Read More >>

Secret Risk Assessment Rule Aims to Halt Worker Safety Protections

The Bush administration is trying to rush through a Department of Labor (DOL) draft rule to require new worker safety standards to be based on a new risk assessment process that would potentially tie the hands of future administrations. The new rule was sent to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) for review in secret, violating the process OIRA has insisted agencies use for rulemaking.
(Matthew Madia 08/05/08) Read More >>

http://www.ombwatch.org/scientific_integrity

***

Following the terror attacks of 2001, Congress expanded its commitment to
public health preparedness in the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism
Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-188) and through greatly enhanced
appropriations for public health. These actions included expanding a number of
programs at CDC, such as grants for state and local public health capacity, and
programs to stockpile medications and to control the possession of potentially
dangerous pathogens. Congress authorized and funded several new programs, such
as a state program to bolster hospital preparedness, and expanded food safety
authorities for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Congress also created the
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to serve as a coordination point for many
emergency preparedness programs, and for enhancement of funding for public health
preparedness programs throughout the federal government.

http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/homesec/RL31719.pdf

The mission of public health is to promote physical and mental health and
prevent disease, injury, and disability.2 The U.S. public health system comprises a
wide array of governmental and nongovernmental entities, including:
! over 3,000 county and city health departments and local boards of
health;
! 59 state and territorial health departments;
! tribal health departments;
! more than 160,000 public and private laboratories;
! parts of multiple federal departments and agencies;
! hospitals and other healthcare providers; and
! volunteer organizations such as the Red Cross.
Definitions vary but, in practical terms, public health infrastructure is the
federal, state, and local public health organizations and the resources they need to
operate effectively.3 These governmental organizations form “the nerve center of the
public health system”and interact with a wide array of other partners to ensure public
health.4

Legal Framework for Public Health5

Public health practice is governed by federal, state, and local law. The federal
government can influence public health practice through its funding decisions and by
exercising its jurisdiction over interstate commerce. However, most public health
authority rests with the states. This section will review the legal authorities of
federal, state, and local governments in public health.
Most public health authority is based in the states, as an exercise of their police
powers.6 States use this authority in a number of ways to protect public health, from
enforcing safety and sanitary codes, to conducting inspections, to mandating the
reporting of certain diseases to state authorities, to compelling isolation or
quarantine, to licensing healthcare workers and facilities. Local governments are
often responsible for some of these activities, using powers largely derived from
delegation of state authority. Since states are the basis for most authority in public
health, the traditional relationship of state and federal agencies has placed states in
a leading role, with CDC providing support through funding, training, and technical
assistance, advanced laboratory support and data analysis, and other activities. The
Public Health Service Act grants the Secretary of HHS the authority to declare a
situation a public health emergency, which triggers an expansion of federal authority
(such as federal quarantine authority) as needed. The only such declaration made in
recent memory was on September 11, 2001. On the other hand, even though states
already have considerable power in responding to public health events, most can also
declare public health emergencies and expand their powers further.7

Though most public health authority is based in state law, the federal
government nonetheless exerts a strong influence on public health practice through
its ability to tax and spend and its responsibility for regulating interstate commerce.
Using its commerce authority, the federal government can act to protect the
environment, ensure food and drug safety, and promote occupational health and
safety.

The federal government also has authority for disease control functions
concerning entries of persons, goods and conveyances from other countries, where
its activities to compel disease reporting and impose quarantine mirror the activities
carried out by states within their borders. These activities are carried out by the CDC
Division of Global Migration and Quarantine, which operates a number of quarantine
stations at major ports.

8 Information on the Model State Emergency Health Powers Act and state implementation
is available from the Center for Law and the Public’s Health at Georgetown and Johns
Hopkins Universities at [http://www.publichealthlaw.net/Resources/Modellaws.htm].

A number of federal statutes address public health in departments across the
federal government. Most federal public health activity is based in HHS through
authorities in the Public Health Service Act (PHSA) and the Federal Food, Drug and
Cosmetic Act (FFDCA). In general, the PHSA authorizes the activities of the public
health service agencies10 and creates important vehicles for federal funding of public
health activities in states and communities. The FFDCA authorizes the FDA to
regulate the safety of food and cosmetics, and the safety and effectiveness of
pharmaceuticals, biologics, and medical devices.
In addition to HHS, most other departments have authorities relevant for public
health, though they may be specific or limited in scope. Three separate statutes grant
authority to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to ensure the safety of meat,
poultry, and processed eggs. Important environmental health authorities are
contained in the National Environmental Policy Act, as well as a number of related
laws that authorize the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate the safety
of the air, water, and the ecological system. Important occupational health authorities
are found in the Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) and Mine Safety Acts. The
Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs exercise authorities to protect the
health of the specific populations they serve, as does the Federal Bureau of Prisons
in the Justice Department. The Departments of Energy and Transportation also act
to protect public health through specific authorities, such as those governing
radiation safety and highway safety, respectively. Independent agencies such as the
Consumer Product Safety Commission, the National Transportation Safety Board,
and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission also exercise federal authorities that, at least
in part, protect public health. These examples are illustrative but by no means
exhaustive. They do not encompass all of the many threads of federal activity that
ultimately benefit the public’s health.
Other provisions of federal law address emergency preparedness and response.
The Homeland Security Act created the Department of Homeland Security (DHS),
and grants the Secretary of DHS a broad leadership role in planning for and
responding to emergencies, as well as several specific authorities for public health
(discussed in subsequent sections). The Stafford Act establishes provisions for
federal assistance to states in the event of a disaster. The act requires the governor
of an affected state to request a declaration of a disaster, and vests the President with
the authority to make such a declaration and charge federal agencies to provide
support to state and local efforts.

10 Public health service agencies are those agencies whose activities are authorized in the
Public Health Service Act, namely the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, CDC,
FDA, the Health Resources and Services Administration, the Indian Health Service, the
National Institutes of Health, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services
Administration, as well as a variety of activities in the Office of the Secretary of HHS.

http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/homesec/RL31719.pdf

Federal Public Health Role and Organization
The 2002 report from the Institute of Medicine, The Future of Public Health in
the 21st Century, identifies six main areas where the federal government plays a role
in population health. The six areas are policy making, financing, public health
protection, collecting and disseminating information about health and healthcare
delivery systems, capacity building for population health, and direct management of
services.11

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) bears primary
responsibility for public health activities at the federal level. Other key activities are
located in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Department
of Defense (DoD), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). This section will
describe the missions of various agencies within HHS and DHS that have
responsibilities for public health preparedness. Selected programs within these
agencies are described in greater detail in subsequent sections.

An Overview of the U.S. Public Health System
in the Context of Emergency Preparedness
Updated March 17, 2005
Sarah A. Lister
Specialist in Public Health and Epidemiology
Domestic Social Policy Division

http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/homesec/RL31719.pdf

***
[PDF]
Mexico-United States Dialogue on Migration and Border Issues, 2001 …
File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat – View as HTML
Review of U.S.-Mexico Border Partnership in February 2004 . …… health, food safety, and environmental protection projects; promoting sectoral …
http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/row/RL32735.pdf
by KL Storrs – Cited by 2 – Related articles

http://www.fas.org/search/index.html?cx=011272476961064978591%3Alx1cammk60s&cof=FORID%3A11&q=food+safety+US#1611

Office of Technology Assessment (OTA)
– is an analytical arm of the US Congress. OTA’s basic function is to help legislators anticipate and plan for the positive and negative impacts of technological changes.

1992 report
OTA Report Brief
File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat – View as HTML
tivity, enhance the environment, improve food safety and quality, and bolster U.S. competitiveness. Many of these new technologies will be available in the …
fas.org/ota/reports/reportbrief9201.pdf

***
Despite peanut crisis, PB&J Day still a go at Capitol
Blakely’s state senator sponsors resolution commending state’s peanut industry

By MARY LOU PICKEL

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Friday, February 13, 2009

In these less-than-smooth days for the peanut industry, one state senator wants to remind everyone that the crunchy icon of Georgia agriculture has not been forsaken at the state Capitol.

Sen. John Bulloch (R-Ochlocknee) sponsored a resolution this week commending the state’s peanut industry and reminding everyone that Peanut Butter & Jelly Day will be celebrated at the Capitol on March 4.

“We’re promoting a great Georgia product, and that’s peanuts,” said Bulloch.

And next week, goober boosters will hold “Peanut Power Hour” at the Capitol, offering samples of a wide variety of peanut products with the aim of educating consumers about the safety and health benefits of peanuts.

The industry is acting in response to the nationwide salmonella outbreak in which tainted peanut products have sickened more than 630 people and possibly caused nine deaths.

Bulloch’s district includes Blakely, home to the Peanut Corp. of America processing plant now under federal investigation as the source of the salmonella outbreak. Bulloch has started to wear a peanut pin on his lapel, and recently, he held up a jar of peanut butter in the Senate chamber to remind his colleagues that it’s safe to eat.

http://www.ajc.com/metro/content/metro/stories/2009/02/13/georgia_legislature_peanut.html

***

http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/homesec/RL31719.pdf

***

msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 7:13 p.m. ET, Wed., Feb. 11, 2009

WASHINGTON – See the jar, the congressman challenged Stewart Parnell, holding up a container of the peanut seller’s products and asking if he’d dare eat them. Parnell pleaded the Fifth.

The owner of the peanut company at the heart of the massive salmonella recall refused to answer the lawmaker’s questions — or any others — Wednesday about the bacteria-tainted products he defiantly told employees to ship to some 50 manufacturers of cookies, crackers and ice cream.

Salmonella found at Ga. plant as early as 2006
Owner Stewart Parnell refused to testify at hearing; 9 have now died

Summoned by congressional subpoena, the owner of Peanut Corp. of America repeatedly invoked his right not to incriminate himself at the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on the salmonella outbreak that has sickened some 600 people, may be linked to nine deaths — the latest reported in Ohio on Wednesday — and resulted in one of the largest product recalls of more than 1,900 items.

Cookies, candy, crackers, granola bars and other products made with contaminated peanuts have been shipped to schools, stores and nursing homes, prompting the massive recall.

(This article includes video and also a timeline of the salmonella outbreak from these peanut products in a printable inset on the page)
Food producers in most states are not required to alert health regulators if internal tests show possible contamination at their plants.

In a separate message to his employees, Parnell insisted that the outbreak did not start at his plant, calling that a misunderstanding by the media and public health officials. “No salmonella has been found anywhere else in our products, or in our plants, or in any unopened containers of our product,” he said in a Jan. 12 e-mail.

“I go thru this about once a week,” he wrote in a June 2008 e-mail. “I will hold my breath ………. again.”

Darlene Cowart of JLA USA testing service said the company contacted her in November 2006 to help control salmonella discovered in the plant.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
© 2009 msnbc.com

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29138430/

***
Between 2003 and 2006, FDA food safety inspections dropped 47 percent,
according to a database analysis of federal records by The Associated
Press.
FDA ‘just can’t manage the job’
That’s not all that’s dropping at the FDA in terms of food safety. The
analysis also shows:
There are 12 percent fewer FDA employees in field offices who
concentrate on food issues.
Safety tests for U.S.−produced food have dropped nearly 75 percent,
from 9,748 in 2003 to 2,455 last year, according to the agency’s own
statistics.
After the Sept. 11 attacks, the FDA, at the urging of Congress,
increased the number of food inspectors and inspections amid fears
that the nation’s food system was vulnerable to terrorists. Inspectors
and inspections spiked in 2003, but now both have fallen enough to
erase the gains.

From spinach to peanut butter
The latest big recall involves peanut butter believed tainted with
salmonella, a bacterium found in feces that can cause severe diarrhea.
The outbreak has sickened at least 329 people in 41 states since
August, federal health officials say.
Food safety experts say it would be impossible to know whether
increased numbers of inspectors and inspections would have prevented
the outbreak, linked to Peter Pan and Great Value brands made by
ConAgra Foods Inc., or other recent food poisoning scares.
The FDA had last inspected ConAgra’s peanut butter plant in Sylvester,
Ga., in February 2005 and had found no problems, agency spokesman
Michael Herndon said.
Firms that produce high−risk foods more susceptible to contamination,
such as fresh fruit and vegetables, are supposed to be inspected every
year, unless they have a good safety record. Then inspections are done
every two or three years, Herndon said.
For other foods, the FDA rotates inspections, depending on resources.

“We’re applying resources to targeted areas. So in a way, it’s not a
matter of ‘Are you inspecting one out of 100 or 10 out of 100?’ The
real issue is if you can define risk. Are you applying the 10
inspectors to the 10 areas of concern? Then it’s essentially you’re
covering 100 percent of your problem, which is not covering 100
percent of the universe,” FDA commissioner Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach
said.

A recent Government Accountability Office report noted that most of
the $1.7 billion the federal government allocates to food safety goes
to the Agriculture Department, which is responsible for regulating
about 20 percent of the food supply. The FDA, responsible for most of
the other 80 percent, gets about 24 percent of the total.
When the FDA finds violations with a food product, it asks companies
to voluntarily fix any problems. The agency also can request a company
to recall a product or it can ask that a product be seized by law
enforcement.

URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17349427/
Date: 27 Feb 2007 04:11:04 −0800
http://newsgroups.derkeiler.com/pdf/Archive/Alt/alt.politics/2007-02/msg04789.pdf

***
#
ORA/DFSR/State Food Safety Task Forces…
ATLANTA – The Georgia Food Safety Task Force group meets quarterly to discuss …. The RI Department of Health, Office of Food Protection developed a web site …. current legislative issues impacting MDA, budget cuts, humane slaughter, …
http://www.fda.gov/ora/fed_state/food_safety/state_ProgressReports.htm – 47k – Cached – Similar pages
#
US relies on states for food safety inspections
Feb 10, 2009 … A Georgia health inspector noted only two minor violations at the Peanut … she acknowledged the state’s food safety budget “has not kept pace … In the wake of the Georgia case, food-safety inspections are facing new scrutiny from Congress. … GM cuts 10000 salaried jobs, trims employees’ pay …
news.aol.com/article/us-relies-on-states-for-food-safety/335540?icid=sphere_wsj_teaser –

***
The report also rated states for their preparedness for a food-borne disease outbreak, referencing a salmonella outbreak that sickened more than 1,400 people across the nation this year. Alabama was cited for below-average ability to identify what’s responsible for food-borne disease outbreaks. Six other Southern states — Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi and West Virginia — and the District of Columbia also fell short in that category.

Regardless of their scores in the Trust Fund’s report, officials say all states will need to stay on high alert when it comes to their emergency preparedness, as money is stretched more and more thinly.

Budget cuts threaten disaster plans
N.C., Va., La. among 5 nationwide to receive perfect score; S.C. rates 9 out of 10By MEG KINNARD
Associated Press
Tuesday, December 16, 2008

***

Tainted-peanut plant owner clams up
Investigators say executive approved sale of salmonella-infected peanuts
By BRETT J. BLACKLEDGE and SUE LINDSEY The Associated Press
Fri. Feb 13 – 1:21 PM

This Jan. 15 photo shows the Peanut Corp. of America plant in Blakely, Ga. Peanut Corp. of America president Stewart Parnell said through an external public relations firm that a majority of the plant’s employees had been let go for the time being since production has been shut down. (ELLIOTT MINOR / AP)

Sammy Lightsey, left, plant manager, and Stewart Parnell, right, president of Peanut Corporation of America are sworn in Wednesday at Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing on the salmonella outbreak associated with peanut butter in Washington DC. (KEVIN CLARK The Washington Post / AP)

LYNCHBURG, Va. — In his hometown in central Virginia, the peanut company executive at the center of a criminal investigation over the national salmonella outbreak is known as a respected businessman who just weeks ago told friends and clients his life was going well.

The image of Stewart Parnell as a benevolent peanut tycoon contrasts sharply with what investigators said occurred inside the processing plants of Peanut Corp. of America. Worried about profits, they said, Parnell fired off jaw-dropping e-mails to employees amid reports that salmonella had been detected in his products not yet shipped.

“Turn them loose,” said one e-mail.

RELATED
» Click here for more information about salmonella poisoning
» List of recalled peanut products

Reconciling the Jekyll-and-Hyde tale of Stewart Parnell, 54, and his contaminated peanuts carries important consequences for food protection reforms already being considered in Washington. Was Parnell a hapless businessman whose mistakes revealed seams in the government’s safety net? Or does the system require a more extensive overhaul to identify companies that might knowingly deliver tainted ingredients?

Friends and clients close to Parnell said he’s not a monster, just a person who has made mistakes.

“He’s always been an upstanding, generous person and a pillar of the community,” said Mark Borel, a former neighbor and longtime friend.

A little over a month ago, Parnell was telling friends and clients just how good things were in his peanut business, which operates three plants in as many states. He was spending time with his grandchild, looking forward to some more hunting and getting his boat out on the water.

Today, the man associated with the deadly salmonella outbreak is more the recluse, staying close to the house he bought here more than 14 years ago, when it was still surrounded by pastures. Parnell is telling those same friends and clients not to call, not to visit, not to do anything that might link them to the firestorm he’s facing.

And for now, they’re giving him the benefit of the doubt.

“I haven’t condemned him yet,” said Eddie Marks, who runs a Virginia storage company and has known Parnell for 15 years.

Others aren’t as forgiving, after reading Parnell’s own words in e-mails: complaining that salmonella tests were costing him business, ordering a plant manager to ship products once identified as contaminated, pleading with health inspectors to let his employees “turn the raw peanuts on our floor into money.”

For nearly five minutes before being dismissed, Parnell listened Wednesday as U.S. lawmakers described him as greedy and uncaring, indifferent to the impact his beleaguered business has had on the lives of so many. He repeatedly invoked his constitutional right not to say anything that could be used against him.

Parnell isn’t talking now, not to reporters or congressmen who pelted him with questions about whether his Georgia plant was responsible for 600 illnesses and nine deaths across the country. Nearly 200 food makers who used or sold Parnell’s products are listed on a recall of more than 1,900 different items, making this one of the nation’s largest recalls.

His appearance before a House subcommittee was the first opportunity to put a face to the latest food contamination scare: a round, slightly swollen, seemingly sleepless face of a man fidgeting in his seat, or tapping his fingers on the desk before him, or folding his arms awkwardly, or jerking his head to the side as if he heard his name called.

“I’m assuming he will talk when the time is right,” said his brother Michael of Midlothian, Va.

Texas health officials this week told him to shut his plant there and ordered a recall Thursday of all its products after salmonella was discovered, along with “dead rodents, rodent excrement and bird feathers.”

This is not the man Charles Pond knew when he sold him his Suffolk, Va., peanut business in 2001. Parnell leases Pond’s building and makes monthly payments for equipment.

“He’s been slow to pay on some of it, but other than that, we’ve never seen any problems like this,” Pond said.

Parnell has had a long, successful run in the peanut business, starting with his father and two younger brothers in 1977. They took a struggling, $50,000-a-year peanut roasting operation and turned it into a $30 million business before selling in 1995. Parnell once boasted about the company on his Web site.

It was in those high-rolling years that Parnell bought the property that today serves as the site for his home and his company headquarters. His three-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath Cape Cod-style house, his company offices behind it and the land are valued at $464,700 in local property tax records.

Parnell continued working as a consultant to the business after the family sold it, and in 2000 he left to buy his own peanut plant again in Texas. In 2001, he bought the Blakely, Ga., operation after teaming up with a financial backer, David Royster III of Shelby, N.C.

Pond said Royster supplied the money, Parnell supplied the experience for the Georgia and Virginia peanut businesses.

Royster did not returned repeated calls for comment over several days made to his office and home by The Associated Press.

Friends of Parnell said there is more to him than what the public has seen. He is a father to two grown daughters, a pilot of more than 30 years, an avid hunter, a reliable contributor to local charities, a man who has spent more than three decades in his business.

“He’s an amazing person,” said Nancy Weaver, a neighbor of Parnell’s. Weaver called a reporter to defend Parnell, to say he’s just being maligned and misunderstood. But she, like others close to him, declined to discuss him further when a reporter knocked on the door.

The public record portrays a different man, someone who repeatedly has faced problems in his business years before it became ground zero for the salmonella outbreak.

In 1990, federal inspectors found toxic mold in products produced in Parnell’s peanut company in Virginia that forced a recall of the food, according to a 1992 lawsuit filed in Virginia. Parnell settled the case with two companies that had products contaminated.

In 2001, inspectors found peanuts may have been exposed to pesticides, and in 2006 Parnell’s company hired a consultant to help resolve a salmonella problem at the Georgia plant.

Those problems, however, didn’t interrupt Parnell’s business and went untold to his clients, many who describe him as well respected. His industry colleagues recommended that he serve on the Agriculture Department’s Peanut Standards Board for the past six years. That board oversees standards for peanut growers and marketers.

It wasn’t campaign money that got him the appointment. Federal campaign records show no contributions from him or his immediate family to any candidate.

Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., extended Parnell’s term to the national board in 2005 when Johanns was agriculture secretary, based on recommendations he received from agency staff and the peanut industry, said a spokeswoman for Johanns, Sarah Pompei.

Parnell is not a fly-by-night operator, said Eddie Marks, the Virginia businessman and Parnell client. Parnell’s client list includes some of the nation’s largest food companies — Kellogg, Frito-Lay, Jenny Craig, Sara Lee.

“I think you can look at his customer base and determine that he’s been well-recognized,” Marks said.

Michael Smith, purchasing manager for Stapleton-Spence Packing Co. in Gridley, Calif., has bought peanuts from Parnell for years and describes him as “one of the nicest guys in the world.”

Smith said he recently sent Parnell an e-mail expressing support, and in less than five minutes Parnell responded.

“He said, ‘I have one thing for you: Take care of yourself, your family and your business.”

http://thechronicleherald.ca/World/9010756.html

***
It’s difficult to believe it hasn’t happened sooner, but there has already been a shakeup in new Department of Agriculture Peanut Standards Board.

On Thursday, Barack Obama’s new Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, removed Stewart Parnell as a member of the board.

Parnell is the president and CEO of Peanut Corp. of America (PCA), the company whose Blakely, Georgia plant has been identified as the source of a nationwide salmonella outbreak.

The board is staffed voluntarily and advises the Secretary of Agriculture on the handling standards for peanuts grown and marketed domestically as well as imported.

Parnell has been on the board since 2005.

Banned From Business

Also on Thursday, Peanut Corporation of America, based in Lynchburg, Virginia was excluded from any role in federal government contracts as an agent or representative supplying peanut or peanut products to the federal government, according to the Department of Agriculture.  That suspension is to last one year.

In terms of the scope of the recall, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reminds us that the closest recall was in 2007 when 1,177 pet food products found with the industrial chemical, melamine were recalled.   The current peanut product recall due to salmonella amounts to more than 1,313 products.

The FDA tracks the products included in the recall and adds more daily. If you have any doubt, check the peanut product salmonella recall list on the agency’s Web site.

Sickness

In terms of sickness, last summer’s salmonella outbreak due to peppers made about 1,200 people ill.  So far the current salmonella situation has sickened 575 and is linked, though not conclusively, to eight deaths.

Food banks are reminded to remove any peanut butter that comes with the name Parnell’s Pride or King Nut, sold in five pound jars up to more than 1.000 pounds.  Peanut butter sold at the retail level is not affected by the recalls.

Prosecution

The state of Georgia, where the Blakely plant is located, has decided not to pursue reckless conduct and adulteration of food charges against the PCA plant. Those are misdemeanors and instead, the state will defer to the federal government for criminal prosecution.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) told members of the FDA and CDC that he’d like to see company officials go to jail as a cost of doing business. “You give them a fine, well, it’s just the cost of doing business. But if somebody thinks they’re going to go to jail… that’s an entirely different thing,” as the Los Angeles Times reports.

The plant had not had an FDA inspection since 2001, instead relying on state inspectors, who found various problems from 2006 to 2008, including salmonella contamination.

Speaking to regulators, members of Congress suggest that agencies need to talk to one another. The creation of an online database could allow physicians to enter information related to any national food borne illness. Forming one agency that oversees food safety is the leading proposed solution.#

Parnell Off Federal Peanut Butter Board
Posted by Jane Akre
Friday, February 06, 2009 11:07 AM EST

http://www.injuryboard.com/national-news/parnell-off-federal-peanut-butter-board.aspx?googleid=256796

***
USDA Biographies
SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE MIKE JOHANNS

Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, (Republican – Nebraska)

Mike Johanns was sworn in as the 28th Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on January 21, 2005.

Secretary Johanns’ strong agricultural roots stretch back to his childhood. He was born in Iowa and grew up doing chores on his family’s dairy farm. As the son of a dairy farmer, he developed a deep respect for the land and the people who work it. He still describes himself as “a farmer’s son with an intense passion for agriculture.”

That passion has been evident during Johanns’ tenure as Secretary of Agriculture. Days after he took office, he began working with U.S. trading partners to reopen their markets to U.S. beef. Nearly 119 countries had closed their markets after a single finding of a BSE-infected cow in the U.S. in 2003. Within his first year, Johanns convinced nearly half that number to reopen their markets.

Prior to coming to USDA, Johanns was Nebraska’s 38th governor. During his six years in office, Johanns was a strong advocate for rural communities and farmers and ranchers. That’s why, with a new farm bill on the horizon, Johanns went to the country in 2005 to hear first-hand from producers about what was working with current farm policy and what was not. Johanns hosted 21 of 52 farm bill forums held in 48 states.

To improve access to markets he has traveled the world, participating in World Trade Organization negotiations and promoting the successful passage of the U.S.-Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement.

http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/!ut/p/_s.7_0_A/7_0_1OB?contentidonly=true&contentid=bios_johanns.xml

***
http://www.fda.gov/oc/orgcharts/FDA.pdf
Current FDA Organizational Chart

***
Stephanie Johanns, wife of Republican Senate hopeful Mike Johanns, fills her ballot at a polling station in Omaha, Neb., in the primary election Tuesday, May 13, 2008. The former Neb. Governor and former US Secretary of Agriculture is competing against Pat Flynn for his party’s nomination.

http://www.usatoday.com/travel/flights/item.aspx?&type=photo&photo_id=08Gwbh9fhUcQo&pn=1&tid=000000000

***
http://www.fda.gov/bbs/topics/NEWS/2007/NEW01565.html
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified 290 people from 39 states who have gotten sick from Salmonella Tennessee, the Salmonella type associated with this outbreak. Forty six (46) patients are known to have been hospitalized and there have been no reported deaths.

On February 13, 2007, FDA was notified by CDC and state health departments of data showing an outbreak of Salmonella Tennessee infection in people who reported having eaten certain jars of Peter Pan peanut butter. Since that time, FDA has been conducting an active investigation of Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butter made by ConAgra in the same facility.

On February 14, FDA took the following actions:
Sent a team of microbiologists and experienced field investigators to begin its inspection of ConAgra’s manufacturing plant in Georgia. The inspection will include collecting environmental, raw ingredient and product samples, and reviewing manufacturing and quality assurance records.

***
ConAgra Foods Announces Test Finds Salmonella in Its Peanut Butter

OMAHA, Neb.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Feb. 22, 2007–ConAgra Foods announced today that testing by some states has detected the presence of Salmonella within samples of peanut butter manufactured in its Sylvester, GA plant.

http://investor.conagrafoods.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=97518&p=irol-newsArticlemedia&ID=966490&highlight

***
Mission

Provide primary prevention through a combination of surveillance, education, enforcement, and assessment programs designed to identify, prevent and abate the environmental conditions that adversely impact human health.

Programs

Chemical Hazards, Food Service, Land Use (On-Site Sewage), Swimming Pools, Tourist Accommodations, Well Water, Other Programs

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Protect the health and promote the quality of life of Georgians through the prevention of exposure to hazardous substances in the environment.

* Provide public health assessments and health consultations, technical assistance, community education, staff training, and referrals for district and local health departments, residents, educators, healthcare professionals, and state and federal agencies.
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Food Service
Minimize food-borne related illnesses.

* Regulation and routine inspection of more than 24,500 food service establishments.
* Investigation of food-borne related complaints and illnesses.
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Minimize health problems related to untreated human sewage.

* Regulation and inspection of more than 47,000 new on-site sewage management systems installed annually.
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Minimize illnesses and injuries associated with contaminated or hazardous conditions in or around swimming pools.

* Regulation and inspection of existing swimming pools.
* Consultation and inspection of new swimming pool construction and installation.
* Education and training for swimming pool operators.

Tourist Accommodations
Minimize illnesses and injuries associated with unsanitary or hazardous conditions in Georgia’s tourist accommodations.

* Regulation and inspection of more than 2,200 tourist accommodations.
* Investigation of complaints.
* Education and training for tourist accommodation employees and managers.
* Rules and Regulations governing Tourist Accommodations (290-5-18). PDF
* Bedbug Handbook and Bedbug Brochure PDF

Well Water
Minimize waterborne related illnesses related to contaminated well water at regulated facilities.

Other Programs

* Mosquito-borne Viral Diseases
* Indoor Air Quality Assistance
o Tools for Schools Brochure PDF
o US EPA’s Website: Indoor Air – MOLD
o Indoor Air Quality Brochure PDF
* Emergency Response (visit Ready Georgia’s website).
* Evaluation and inspection of individual drinking water supply systems.
* Collection of water samples for bacteriological assay.
* Oversight of the rabies control program.
Georgia Rabies Control Manual PDF

©1999-2009 Georgia Department of Human Resources,
Division of Public Health

http://health.state.ga.us/programs/envservices/index.asp

***

At Gleaners Food Bank in Indianapolis, volunteers open the last cases of peanut butter crackers to be destroyed Saturday Feb. 7, 2009.
(MICHELLE PEMBERTON/THE INDIANAPOLIS STAR/AP)
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Photos (1 of 1)
Amid peanut scandal, Georgia moves to tighten its food-safety net

On Wednesday, the state legislature began work on measures to tighten food inspections, while in Washington, the CEO of Peanut Corp. refused to testify before Congress.
By Patrik Jonsson | Staff Writer / February 11, 2009 edition

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ATLANTA – Embarrassed and troubled by two major food-contamination scandals at peanut processing plants in three years, the state of Georgia is now vowing to spearhead efforts to fix a torn food-safety net – and save an American lunchbox standard.

On Wednesday, the state legislature took up measures designed to prevent further flouting of food-safety laws that, Congress asserts, allowed a company to knowingly ship salmonella-tainted peanut products to nursing homes and schools. So far, nine people linked to the outbreak have died, and 600 others have fallen ill.

One proposed law would essentially deputize county health officials to follow up on local scuttlebutt on plant conditions. That idea came about after legislators realized the unsanitary conditions at the Blakely plant were an open secret in the town. Another Georgia bill would force producers to inform the state immediately of any positive tests for food-borne illnesses. If passed, that law would likely set a national precedent, experts say.

“This tragic situation must serve as a wake-up call and lead to reforms in the food safety network,” Oscar Garrison, an assistant Georgia agriculture commissioner, told the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Wednesday at a hearing on the outbreak in Washington. He said that Georgia “intends to lead the way.”

So far, Americans’ peanut consumption has dropped 25 percent in two weeks since the recall began, and lawmakers were concerned that a basic food staple was under attack. “The fate of the peanut butter and jelly sandwich hangs in the balance,” Rep. Nathan Deal (R) of Georgia told the House committee Wednesday, adding, “It’s those closest to the problem who are most infuriated by it.”

At the hearings on Capitol Hill, Peanut Corp. of America CEO Stewart Parnell claimed his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination on the heels of an FBI raid of the company’s Lynchburg, Va., headquarters and the Blakely plant on Monday. The FBI closed a second PCA plant in Plainview, Texas, on Tuesday, after finding salmonella residue there.

In addition to statewide measures, the food-contamination scandal is likely to lead to a tightening of food-safety standards nationwide. After the ninth congressional food safety hearing in two years, Washington is increasingly likely to boost funding to a cash-strapped Food and Drug Administration, strengthen reporting requirements between local, state, and federal agencies, impose a mandatory product recall law, and improve the ability of the federal government to trace tainted products to their source.

The PCA scandal comes two years after a contamination of Peter Pan peanut butter at a ConAgra facility 75 miles from the Blakely plant. A Georgia agriculture subcommittee has started a probe into why the state agriculture commissioner never requested funding for more and better-paid inspectors.

Those criticisms took on even more poignancy after PCA workers described unsanitary conditions involving roaches, rats, and standing water at a time when nine different state inspections in the past two years failed to turn up any problems at the plant. “There should have been a red flag,” says Rep. Terry England, who sponsored one of the Georgia reform bills.

“It all kind of came from saying, ‘All right, what’s all going on and how could this maybe have been prevented?’ ” says Representative England in a phone interview from Washington. “And it boiled down to: What if there might have been a set of local eyes and ears that could have stepped in and said, ‘Let’s look at this?’ ”

Former Food and Drug Administration policy commissioner Michael Taylor says more local vigilance could indeed help.

“These agencies have to be a cop on the beat and be prepared to take action to prevent problems, and this is what’s missing in the way the inspection system works,” says Mr. Taylor. “We need all the eyes and ears on the ground that we can get.”

Critics, however, say the Blakely lapses indicate that what’s really needed is a better-funded and more robust federal system, rather than the current patchwork state-by-state system, which they say relies too much on local and state agencies to root out unsanitary plants. With 400 fewer federal investigators on hand than five years ago, the FDA today regularly contracts with states to carry out plant inspections.

“It may be very difficult for a state like Georgia, which exports peanuts, and where those interests may be very powerful, to stand up against a big local industry,” says Jean Halloran, director of food policy initiatives at the Consumers Union in Yonkers, N.Y.

But John McKissick, an agricultural economist at the University of Georgia, puts more blame on antiquated laws and confusing inspection regimes than on local interests. “Maybe 20 years ago that would have been the case,” Mr. McKissick says. “But I don’t think it’s true today.”

In fact, he says, a major reason reforms are likely to finally move forward is that farmers and food-industry magnates are reversing their objections and are coming out in support of major reforms. In Georgia alone, millions of dollars in farm revenues were lost last year when a salmonella scare involving jalapeños meant a shutdown of plants across the state, even though there was no evidence that state growers supplied tainted peppers.

“We support these [new reforms] not only because we don’t want anybody to be sick from our farm products – that’s our main concern – but it’s an economic disaster for farmers when something like this occurs,” says Jon Huffmaster, the Georgia Farm Bureau’s legislative director in Macon.

At Wednesday’s hearing, the sheer symbolism of the peanut butter jelly sandwich – one committee member called it “more American than even apple pie” – seems to have spurred committee members to promise reforms of inspection laws that go back to 1938.

The tone of federal regulators is also changing under the Obama administration, says Ms. Halloran. During food safety hearings under the Bush administration, Stephen Sundlof, the director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, testified that the FDA needed neither more money nor more authority to do its job.

On Wednesday, in the wake of the historic 1,700-product recall of one of America’s most basic foodstuffs, Mr. Sundlof struck a different note, admitting that dramatic reforms at both the state and federal level would in fact be helpful to the FDA’s mission of keeping the American food chain safe.

Nationally, “I’ve never seen so much recognition of the need for reform as we’ve got right now,” says Taylor. “Now we’ve got the food industry at the table, and we’ve got Congress working on it in a serious way.”

http://features.csmonitor.com/politics/2009/02/11/amid-peanut-scandal-georgia-moves-to-tighten-its-food-safety-net/

***

Peanut Product Recalls:
Salmonella Typhimurium
Updated: February 13, 2009

Update on FDA’s Investigation

A combination of epidemiological analysis and laboratory testing by state officials in Minnesota and Connecticut, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have enabled FDA to confirm that the sources of the outbreak of illnesses caused by Salmonella Typhimurium are peanut butter and peanut paste produced by the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) at its Blakely, Georgia processing plant.

http://www.fda.gov/oc/opacom/hottopics/salmonellatyph.html

***

Office of the Commissioner
Picture: Tommy Irvin Tommy Irvin is the longest serving statewide official in Georgia as well as in the United States.  Since 1969, he has served as Georgia’s Agriculture Commissioner. He was elected to his 10th four-year term this past November 2006.

***
Divisions

Administration Division
The Administration Division handles all administrative functions for the Department. Its responsibilities include accounting, payroll, budgeting, personnel services, purchasing, vehicle fleet management, mail and courier services, administrative hearings, information technology and bonding.

Animal Industry Division
Animal agriculture is the largest sector of agriculture, contributing over $5.8 billion to  Georgia’s farm gate value.  Assuring that the livestock and poultry sectors remain healthy and productive is one of the top priorities of the Animal Industry Division.

Consumer Protection Division
Our Consumer Protection Division administers state laws, rules and regulations for retail and wholesale grocery stores, retail seafood stores and places in the business of food processing and plants which are currently required to obtain a license from the Commissioner under any other provision of law: bakeries, confectionaries, fruit, nuts and vegetables stores and places of business, and similar establishments, mobile or permanent, engaged in sale of food primarily for consumption off the premises.

Marketing Division
The increasing diversity of Georgia’s farm products is opening new opportunities for expanding sales of the state’s commodities. In order to help growers take advantage of these potential markets, the Marketing Division promotes demand for and sales of the state’s agricultural commodities in the United States and abroad.

Plant Industry Division
Our division encompasses Pesticide Certification and Enforcement, Structural Pest Control, Nursery and Plant Protection, Apiary Industry, Boll Weevil Eradication, Entomology and Chemical Labs, Seed Labs, Seed Development Commission, Plant, Food, Feed and Grain, and Plant Industry Inspection Forces.

http://agr.georgia.gov/00/channel_title/0,2094,38902732_39654341,00.html

***
Consumer Protection – Food Safety

Van Harris
Agriculture Manager III
Tele: (404) 656-3632
vharris@agr.state.ga.us <vharris@agr.state.ga.us>

Our section is responsible for enforcing state laws, rules and regulations by conducting sanitation inspection of  retail food stores, salvage food operations, mobile meat trucks and rolling stores to insure good manufacturing practices.  Various tests are performed during inspection including fat tests to check fat content in ground beef, candling shell eggs for wholesomeness, and black light for signs of rodent infestation.

We also check scanners and scales to insure accuracy of pricing and weight and the shelves of retail and wholesale stores for out of date food products

Click here for information on:
The Georgia Food Safety Task Force

Ethnic Foods Training Guide Download Instructions (216KB)

Associated Document(s):
pdf file     Ethnic_Foods_Training_Guide.zip

http://agr.georgia.gov/00/article/0,2086,38902732_0_40971471,00.html

***
About Us

Georgia Department of Agriculture was established in 1874.  We are the oldest state department of agriculture in the U.S. We are not a branch of USDA.

The department’s mission is to provide excellence in services and regulatory functions, to protect and promote agriculture and consumer interests, and to ensure an abundance of safe food and fiber for Georgia, America, and the world by using state-of-the-art technology and a professional workforce.

The department has 696 employees under the leadership of Commissioner of Agriculture Tommy Irvin. Units within the department are: Administration, Animal Industry, Consumer Protection, Plant Industry and Marketing.

The Georgia Department of Agriculture regulates, monitors, or assists with the following areas: grocery stores, convenience stores, food warehouses, bottling plants, food processing plants, pet dealers and breeders, animal health, gasoline quality and pump calibration, antifreeze, weights and measures, marketing of Georgia agricultural products domestically and internationally, pesticides, structural pest control, meat processing plants, seed quality, Vidalia onions, state farmers markets, plant diseases, nurseries and garden centers, fertilizer and lime, potting soil; feed, boll weevil eradication, apiaries, Humane Care for Equines Act, bottled water, and other responsibilities. The department publishes a bi-weekly newspaper: The Farmers and Consumers Market Bulletin, which is available online as well as in printed form.

All Georgians are served by the Georgia Department of Agriculture.

http://agr.georgia.gov/00/channel_title/0,2094,38902732_80592692,00.html

***

American Peanut Council * 1500 King Street Suite 301 * Alexandria, VA 22314

According to USDA regulations, American Peanut Council does not discriminate in it’s programs on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation or marital or family status.

THE PEANUT FOUNDATION
1500 King StreetSuite 301Alexandria VA 22314USA
Phone (703) 838-9500Fax (703) 838-9508

http://www.peanutsusa.com/USA/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.page&pid=15

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Washington D.C. 20250

Website:  http://www.usda.gov

Office of the Secretary

Chuck Connor, Acting Secretary

(202) 720-3631

Chuck Connor, Deputy Secretary

(202) 720-6158

Mark Keenum, Under Secretary for Farm & Foreign Ag Services

(202) 720-3111

Ellen Terpstra, Under Secretary for Farm & Foreign Ag Services

(202) 720-7107

Floyd Gaibler, Under Secretary for Farm & Foreign Ag Services

(202) 720-2542

Foreign Agricultural Service

Administration

Michael Yost, Administrator

(202) 720-3935

Office of Trade Programs

Larry Blum, Acting Deputy Administrator

(202) 720-9516

Marketing Development & Grants Management Division

Bonnie Borris, Director

(202) 690-0159

Field Crops & Forest Products Branch

William Bomersheim,  Branch Chief

(202) 720-1569

Sigal Bernstein, Ag. Marketing Specialist

(202) 720-1001

Peter Downing, Ag. Marketing Specialist

(202) 690-4195

Susan Wentzy, Ag Marketing Specialist

(202) 720-4129

William George, Agricultural Economist, Office  of Global Analysis

(202) 720-6234

Farm Services Agency

Administration

Teresa C. Lasseter, Administrator

(202) 720-3467

John Johnson, Deputy Administrator for Farm Programs

(202) 720-3175

Larry Adams, Deputy Administrator for Commodity Operations

(202) 720-3217

Price Support Division

CandyThompson, Director

(202) 720-7901

Raellen Erickson, Deputy Director

(202) 720-7320

Solomon Whitfield, Associate Director

(202) 720-9886

Tonye Gross, Program Manager

(202) 720-4319

Warehouse and Inventory Division

Steve Gill, Director

(202) 720-2121

National Agricultural Statistics Service

Estimates Division

Anthony Prillaman, Ag Statistician

(202) 720-7688

Agricultural Marketing Service

Fruit &Vegetable Programs

Robert C. Keeney, Deputy Administrator

(202) 720-4722

Leanne Skelton, Chief, Fresh Products Branch

(202) 720-5870

Sonia Jiminez, Chief, Research & Promotion Branch

(202) 720-9915

Mike Durando, Chief, Regional Manager, Marketing Order Admin. Branch

(301) 734-5243

Jeanette Palmer, Marketing Specialist

(202) 720-9916

American Peanut Council * 1500 King Street Suite 301 * Alexandria, VA 22314

http://www.peanutsusa.com/USA/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.page&pid=10

***

GEORGIA (REVISED ON 8-22-05)
AFTER-HOUR EMERGENCY NO. RAD (404) 656-4300

STATE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
19 Martin Luther King Drive, S.W. Atlanta 30334-2001
Thomas T. Irvin, Commissioner
TIRVIN@AGR.STATE.GA.US     (404) 656-3600
(404) 651-8206 (FAX)
Administrative Division
Dominick A. Crea, Assistant Commissioner
DCREA@AGR.STATE.GA.US     (404) 656-3608
(404) 656-3683 (FAX)     PRESS & CONSUMER INFORMATION
Animal Industry Division
Dr. Lee M. Myers, Assistant Commissioner & State Veterinarian
LMYERS@AGR.STATE.GA.US     (404) 656-3671
(404) 657-1357 (FAX)     ANIMAL DISEASE CONTROL, LIVESTOCK
Meat Industry Division
Dr. Rex D. Holt, Director
RHOLT@AGR.STATE.GA.US     (404) 656-3673
(404) 463-1357 (FAX)     MEAT
Consumer Protection Field Forces Division
Cameron Smoak, Assistant Commissioner
CSMOAK@AGR.STATE.GA.US     (404) 656-3627
(404) 463-6428 (FAX)     FOOD, RETAIL FOOD STORES, EGGS
Bob Sherrer, Agriculture Manager, Food Complaints
BSHERRER@AGR.STATE.GA.US     (404) 656-3621
(404) 463-6428 (FAX)

http://www.fda.gov/ora/Fed_state/State_Directory_Files/georgia.pdf

***
http://www.legis.state.ga.us/legis/2007_08/fulltext/hr496.htm

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES that the members of this body wholeheartedly commend Mr. Cameron Smoak for his outstanding service to the public as the Assistant Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Agriculture and wish him continued success in the future.

07 LC 35 0504
House Resolution 496
By: Representatives McCall of the 30th, England of the 108th, Lane of the 158th, James of the 135th, Royal of the 171st, and others

***
Salmonella Found, Company Still Shipped Peanut Products
Posted By: Michael King
Posted By: Kevin Rowson
Posted By: Jerry Carnes

ATLANTA — The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says a Georgia peanut plant shipped peanut products to consumers even though they tested positive for salmonella. The Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) in Blakely is at the center of a federal investigation into a salmonella outbreak that has killed eight people.

The FDA says that on 12 separate occasions over the past two years, PCA tests found their product tainted with salmonella. The company sent those products on to the consumer after a second lab tested them negative. Oscar Garrison, the Assistant Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Agriculture called the findings “complete recklessness on behalf of the manufacturer (PCA).”

The Department of Agriculture conducted six inspections in 2007 and 2008 at the plant. They tested for salmonella just once. That test came out negative.

But on 12 separate occasions in the same time period, the company conducted it’s own tests and found salmonella. Consumer advocates are fuming after hearing the FDA findings.

“This kind of lab shopping is absolutely shocking and it really shows the FDA’s program is inadequate to protect American consumers,” said Sarah Klein of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

The FDA also says the Georgia plant took no steps to improve the cleaning or manufacturing methods after salmonella was found in it’s plant. The FDA says that is a clear violation of the law. The FDA said those were “significant deviations” that had an adverse effect on the quality on the product.

The company is not required by law to report it’s own findings to the Department of Agriculture or the FDA. The state’s Oscar Garrison says the Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture will introduce legislation that will make companies report their test results to the state.

“Had we known when this occurred we would have stepped in with regulatory oversight to take charge of the facility and make sure those products were not introduced into the market place,” Garrison said. “The facility should have stopped production immediately and should have done a thorough cleaning of the facility and done and investigation to determine exactly where the source of that contamination came from.”

Eight people have died in the salmonella outbreak. The sick count is up to 501 people in 43 states. One-hundred-eight of those who got sick had to be hospitalized. The most recent reported sickness was on January 9. The FDA says new cases are decreasing.

Officials with the Centers for Disease Control said more than 280 of those were children. The Food and Drug Administration said that 21 percent of the victims are less than five years old.

Federal officials say four kinds of salmonella have been identified in the growing investigation of tainted peanut products. Meanwhile, the recall list has grown to more 390 products, from ice cream to dog biscuits. More than 500 people have gotten sick, and the outbreak is believed to have contributed to eight deaths.

A congressional official briefed on the investigation said health officials have identified four types of salmonella as they focus on the Peanut Corporation of America’s facility in downstate Blakely, Ga. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is continuing.

One strain of salmonella, Salmonella Typhimurium, is what caused the illnesses. Two other strains were found on the floor of the facility and a third in a container of peanut butter from the plant.

11Alive News obtained inspection reports conducted by the State Department of Agriculture over the past three years at the plant. They show while there were more and more violations at the Blakely processing plant, there were fewer and fewer inspections. The Georgia Department of Agriculture’s assistant commissioner says changes are unavoidable.

Ten inspections over the past three years; 32 violations found at the South Georgia peanut processing plant. State inspectors found unsanitary conditions like dirty equipment, mold, and dust.

“Doesn’t that raise a red flag?” asked 11Alive’s Jerry Carnes.

“It would denote we need a little more enforcement in the plant. But overall? No,” responded Oscar Garrison of the Department of Agriculture.

Georgia’s Agriculture Department insists any violation spotted here was fixed that day or the next. But as the violations grew, the number of inspections shrank — four in 2006, four in 2007, only two in 2008.

“Why did that happen?” Carnes asked.

“It’s like all other state agencies — we’re under the gun with the budget cuts being required,” said Garrison. “We have fewer inspectors.”

Garrison says the lack of resources also impacted the type of inspections done here. The plant is now the focus of an investigation into the outbreak of salmonella that may be responsible for as many as seven deaths. Over the past three years, state inspectors tested products there for salmonella only once — that was in 2007.

“Why weren’t there salmonella tests done at this plant in ’08?” asked Carnes.

“Probably because of limited resources at the lab, and some of the other hot topics,” Garrison said.

Issues you might remember — in 2008, the state was busy working to trace an outbreak of salmonella in tomatoes, a problem eventually linked to peppers in Mexico. Georgia’s agriculture department says with nearly 100 food recalls, their lab was overwhelmed.

“You would have liked to have done salmonella tests at this plant last year?” Carnes asked.

“We would like to do a lot more tests,” Garrison said. “It’s just a matter of capabilities.”

So changes are coming. The department plans to shift resources.

“Shuffling some of our time to the more serious food safety issues out there,” said Garrison.

“Is the state doing enough to ensure facilities are safe?” asked Carnes.

“With the resources we have, we’re doing all we can to make sure facilities are safe,” said Garrison.

Right now, there are 60 inspectors statewide to examine 16,000 plants, grocery stores, food warehouses, and the like. The agriculture department will eventually get a new lab. Gov. Sonny Perdue has reserved $24 million for that.

http://www.wxia11.com/includes/tools/print.aspx?storyid=126172

WXIA – 11 Alive – Atlanta News Station

***
Terry Coleman, Deputy Commissioner
Ag and Food Defense & Trade Division

Terry Coleman, Deputy Commissioner

Considered one of Georgia’s foremost authorities on state government, Terry Coleman spent 34 years in the General Assembly. Early on he was recognized as a rising star by House leadership and was named over time to chair important committees such as Public Safety, Natural Resources and the Environment, and Ways and Means. He spent a dozen years as Chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee prior to being selected by his colleagues to serve as Speaker of the House.

Mr. Coleman maintains his varied interests and his commitment to good government as Deputy Commissioner for Agriculture with special emphasis on international trade, homeland security and legislative issues.  He recently has been named to the Board of Trustees of Georgia Southern University.  Beyond Georgia, he serves on the Board of The Tropics Foundation, whose mission is the financial stability of the Tropical Agricultural research and Higher Education Center located in Costa Rica.

A native of Dodge County, he has a BS in Criminal Justice from Brenau University and a JD from Woodrow Wilson College of Law. He has been awarded honorary degrees from Mercer University and the John Marshall School of Law.
He is a lifetime member of the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association, the Georgia Chiefs of Police Association and the Georgia Firefighters’ Association. He was a member of the Eastman Volunteer Fire Department for 23 years and an emergency medical technician for 15 years.

Coleman is founder of Coleman and Company Benefits, Inc. He is a Life and Qualifying Member of the Million Dollar Round Table, the life insurance industry’s most prestigious organization.  He also serves on the Board of Directors for the Bank of Dodge County and the Colony Bank Corporation.

http://agr.georgia.gov/00/channel_title/0,2094,38902732_130150546,00.html

http://agr.georgia.gov/00/article/0,2086,38902732_0_131703962,00.html

***
Oscar Garrison, Assistant Commissioner
Consumer Proctection Division

Oscar Garrison is a 14-year veteran with the Georgia Department of Agriculture.  Garrison joined the agency in 1994, as a sanitarian in the Consumer Protection Division where he advanced to senior sanitarian and then to senior operations analyst, where he served as training officer for the division.  Garrison served as the primary emergency coordinator for the department where he was responsible for the agency’s relief efforts during natural disasters and other major events including the G-8 summit.  Garrison was appointed Assistant Commissioner over the departments Consumer Protection Division in January of 2007 and is responsible for enforcing the Georgia Food Act and for monitoring the safety and wholesomeness of food products manufactured and sold in Georgia.   The division includes five district offices, one of which houses the Poultry and Egg Grading Service.  Garrison also oversees the Department’s Fuel and Measure’s Division.

Garrison is past president of the Georgia Association of Food Protection and is a member of the Association of Food and Drug Officials and the International Association of Food Protection.  He also served four years as a board member of the Georgia Environmental Health Association.

A native of Homer, Georgia., Garrison currently resides in Jackson County, Georgia, with his wife, Tami, and sons Pierce and Parker. He is a graduate of Young Harris College and Jacksonville State University.

http://agr.georgia.gov/00/article/0,2086,38902732_0_131700161,00.html

***
This is the html version of the file http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/pubs/LetterUniformityAFDO_12.5.05.pdf.
Google automatically generates html versions of documents as we crawl the web.
Page 1
FouoAed
President
Marion F. Aller
FL Dept. of Agriculture and
Consumer Services
3125 Conner Blvd.
Room 181 MSC18
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1650
(850) 488-0295
(850) 488-794Ó FAX
allerm 1 @doacs. state, fl. us
President-Elect
Charlene W. Bruce
MS Dept. of Health
570 E. Woodrow Wilson
P.O. Box 1700
Jackson, MS 39215-1700
(601)576-7689
(601) 576-7632 FAX
cbruce@msdh.state.ms.us
Vice-President
Steve Steingart
Allegheny Co. Health Dept.
3901 Penn Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15224
(412)578-7935
(412) 578-8190 FAX
ssteingart@achd.net
Secretary-Treasurer
Steve Steinhoff
Wl Dept. of Agriculture,
Trade and Consumer Protection
2811 Agriculture Drive
Madison, Wl 53708
(608) 224-4701
(608) 224-4710 FAX
steve.steinhoff@datcp.state.wi.us
Director of Public Policy
J. Joseph Corby
NY Dept. of Agriculture & Markets
10 B Airline Drive
Albany, NY 12025
(518)457-4492
(518) 485-8986 FAX
Joe.Corby@agmkt.state.ny.us
Executive Director
Denise C. Rooney
Association of Food and Drug
Officials
2550 Kingston Road
Suite 311
York, PA 17402
(717)757-2888
(717) 755-8089 FAX
drooney@afdo.org
Association of Food and Drug Officials
2550 Kingston Road, Suite 311 York, PA 17402
Telephone (717)757-2888 • Fax (717)755-8089
E-Mail: afdo@afdo.org • Internet: http://www.afdo.org
December 5, 2005
The Honorable Mike Rogers
United States House of Representatives
133 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Congressman Rogers,
I am writing on behalf of the Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO) to express our
concerns regarding H.R. 4167 “The National Uniformity for Foods Act of 2005” that you have
sponsored. Introduced in the 108th Congress as H.R. 2699, the bill would amend the Federal
Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act to provide for uniform food safety warning notification
requirements and for other purposes. It is the “for other purposes” that alarms members of
AFDO. The legislation has been reviewed by attorneys for eleven state food safety programs.
Unfortunately, all of the reviews are unanimous in their conclusion that the bill will preempt
states and local food safety and defense programs from performing their functions to protect
citizens.
Local and state regulatory agencies perform approximately 80% of the food safety work
currently done in the United States. Federal agencies often seek assistance from local and state
programs in dealing with imminent health hazards. Consumers are well served by being able to
come to their local or state governments to have their complaints and issues addressed. Many
local and state programs regularly remove contaminated food from the market; test dairy
products for drug residues and monitor the marketplace for pathogens and other food
contaminants. Preempting state and local regulatory agencies from having the latitude to
address food safety concerns has the potential to put at risk the significant state and local
resources that are now dedicated to ensuring consumer public health and safety in food
processing, storage, and retail sales, as well as other non-federal resources directed to ensure
compliance with BSE and medicated feed regulations.
Passage of this bill will undermine proven consumer protection programs. The preemption
provisions contained in H.R. 4167 are broad, vague and sweeping and will likely dismantle the
authority of state and local laws that address adulterated foods – which includes food laws, dairy
laws, animal feed laws, other agriculture commodity laws, anti-tampering laws, anti-terrorism
laws, etc. When you consider that local and state food safety programs are our first line of
defense against acts of terrorism involving the food supply, AFDO respectfully suggests that
now is not the time to dismantle our national food protection program that maintains one of the
safest food supplies in the world.
AFDO is aware of other organizations that have provided comments on this legislation in an
attempt to address some of the above concerns. It bears noting that AFDO has publicly stated
similar concerns regarding H.R. 2699. While we appreciate the viewpoint that other
organizations bring to the table, we would ask you to consider who benefits from the proposed
changes in Hll. 4167. Members of AFDO are state and local governments with no profit
motive, merely a public health and safety concern who feel strongly that the legislation, if
enacted, will gravely impair state and local authorities’ ability to protect their constituents.
110th ANNUAL CONFERENCE • June 16-21, 2006 • Albany, NY
Page 2
The Honorable Mike Rogers
December 5, 2005
Page 2
AFDO representatives would appreciate and welcome an opportunity to discuss our concerns with you
and your staff. Given the far reaching ramifications this legislation could have, we are hopeful that the
bill will go through the full and open committee process, including a public hearing.
Thank you in advance for your thoughtful consideration of our concerns. Should you or your staff have
any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me (850-488-0295) or Mr. Cameron Smoak (404-656-
3627).
Sincerely,
Marion F. Aller, DVM, DABT
President
cc: H.R. 4167 Co-Sponsors
Governor Mike Huckabee, Chair NGA
Attorney General Steve Carter, President NAAG
Senator Steve Rauschenberger, President NCSL
Cameron Smoak

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