Top F.S.I.S. food-safety nominee 'up for the task'

by Bryan Salvage
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WASHINGTON — Dr. Elisabeth Hagen’s confirmation hearing to be the next U.S. Department of Agriculture Undersecretary for Food Safety was held May 27.

Phil Kimball CAE, executive director of the North American Meat Processors Association (N.A.M.P.), who attended the hearing, spoke with her afterwards in the Senate Agriculture Committee meeting room on Capitol Hill. Ms. Hagen told Mr. Kimball she looked forward to working with N.A.M.P. on industry food-safety issues.

Committee chair Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) said in her opening remarks, “There is no more important mission of U.S.D.A. than maintaining the safety of our nation’s commercial meat, poultry and egg product supply.”

In her statement to the committee, Ms. Hagen said she supports “strong, science-based food-safety policies. The public rightfully expects their food to be safe,” she added. “We can — and must — do better.”

During the hearing, two senators focused on meat processing facilities. Senator Robert P. Casey (D-Penn.) asked if Ms. Hagen supported greater technical assistance to small meat processing facilities. She responded affirmatively and cited several current U.S.D.A. programs aimed at helping that part of the industry, such as the small plant outreach program.

Ms. Hagen was encouraged by Senator Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) to focus on small food processors as well as firms of all sizes. In an apparent reference to the in-plant validation issue, Mr. Lugar said there is concern that some of the new F.S.I.S. regulations are impinging on the ability of small firms to do business.

Ms. Hagen’s next step in the process is for the full Senate to vote on her confirmation. During the hearing, no timetable for that was discussed. Later on, committee staff told N.A.M.P. they did not know when the committee would refer it to the full Senate.

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