RESTON, Va. – Dr. Elisabeth Hagen, Undersecretary for Food Safety recently shared her priorities for food safety during a meeting with North American Meat Processors Association (N.A.M.P.) Executive Director Phil Kimball, N.A.M.P. Director of Scientific & Regulatory Affairs Ann Wells, and other industry association leaders.

Dr. Hagen’s major priorities include:

  • Communicating with stakeholders, including the industry, consumers, Food Safety and Inspection Service (F.S.I.S.) employees and other partners.
  • Working with inspectors and other F.S.I.S. employees to look at the F.S.I.S. workforce and the best way to move forward to protect public health.
  • Working with other agencies and stakeholders to develop ideas on how to move forward on pre-harvest food safety.
  • Reviewing F.S.I.S. regulations, as well as legislation that impacts F.S.I.S.

Dr. Hagen said she wants to reach out and listen to all F.S.I.S. stakeholders. Her slogan for F.S.I.S. is "One team, one purpose."

Dr. Hagen supports the recent F.S.I.S. operational move to solicit industry and other outside stakeholder input on policy issues early in the F.S.I.S. decision-making process — when it is easier to consider suggested changes — like F.S.I.S. did on the current in-plant validation issue.

She also wants to foster "a culture of learning all the way around, to honestly and productively sort through issues." She wants an "open door" policy at F.S.I.S.

There is a "lot of pent up demand" for the person in her office because of the nearly two years without a permanent under secretary, she added. She faces a "big bucket" of legislative and regulatory issues on her desk, and wants to build her relations in Congress.

On non-O157:H7 S.T.E.C.’s, Dr. Hagen said F.S.I.S. will focus on the top six identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (C.D.C.): O26, O45, O103, O111, O121, and O145. She said F.S.I.S. will make the testing methodology it develops public.

Regarding import inspection, industry groups at the meeting suggested that Dr. Hagen focus on food-safety inspection processes for imports, because trading partners think they do not get the respect from F.S.I.S. on issues important to them.

Dr. Hagen gave F.S.I.S. Administrator Al Almanza her full support, adding she was "very lucky to be working with him."

Regarding the Secretary of Agricultures expectations, Dr. Hagen said "the Secretary’s office is highly invested in seeing that her office is successful because of the lag in getting her on board."

In addressing pre-harvest interventions, she said she wants F.S.I.S. to support the Animal and Plant Inspection Service (A.P.H.I.S.) and other U.S.D.A. agencies that have responsibility for this.