Agendas of USDA Food Safety Leaders
Business establishments it regulates, foreign trade partners, and academic and educational organizations were among those outside the federal government who met with USDA’s food safety executives so far this summer. The public calendar from the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows meetings held by the under secretary and deputy under secretary for food safety, and the FSIS administrator and deputy administrator. FSIS has released meeting details through July 31.
The calendars documenting these private meetings for USDA’s three top food safety officials become public after meetings occur with:
- Deputy Under Secretary Mindy Brashears
- FSIS Administrator Carmen Rottenberg
- Deputy FSIS Administrator Paul Kiecker
One of the summer’s most interesting meetings involved FSIS leadership, several FDA officials and Berkley, CA-based Memphis Meats, the food technology company working on lab-grown meat. During June and July, Rottenberg met with representatives from individual companies regulated by FSIS, as well as trade organizations, more than a dozen times on a wide variety of issues. Here’s the list, along with the topics of the meetings:
- JBS (JBS update)
- U.S. Cattleman’s Association (Lab-grown food & equivalency)
- Kraft Heinz (Kraft Heinz update)
- Catfish Farmers of America (Siluriformes inspection)
- Gerber Poultry (NPIS update - New Poultry Inspection System)
- Plant-Based Foods Association (labeling)
- Pilgrim’s Pride (Pilgrim’s Pride update)
- Mark’s Meat (enforcement procedures)
- Tyson Foods (Tyson update)
- National Cattlemen’s Beef Association
- Good Food Institute (labeling)
- Global Cold Chain Alliance
- Johnsonville (Johnsonville update)
- OSI Group (OSI update)
Deputy under Secretary Brashears led most of the meetings with foreign and educational organizations, which usually also include Rottenberg. Such sessions included meetings with:
- Meat and Livestock Australia (Meet and Greet)
- Partnership for Food Safety Education (Collaboration Opportunities)
- Foodborne Center, Illness Research and Prevention. (Safe Recipe Style)
- The University of Nebraska (food allergens)
- National Institute of Food and Agriculture (smart surveillance, risk assessment)
The summer’s largest delegation visiting FSIS was the one from the U.S Cattleman’s Association, which arrived with about 25 people on June 10. Chandler Keys with the governmental affairs shop known as the Keys Group was a frequent flyer, accompanying both JBS; Pilgrim’s Pride: and Johnsville in meetings with FSIS brass. Rottenberg and Kiecker huddled on July 11 in Washington D.C. with Joe Annelli and Mariana Barros of the National Association of Federal Veterinarians. The topic of that meeting was FSIS’s own recruitment and retention needs when it comes to its veterinarians. And, Rottenberg continued to take media inquiries, doing interviews with USDA Radio, Meatingplace, Food Quality & Safety Magazine, and NBC News.
Separate FSIS and Office of Food Safety (OFS) meetings occurred in June for both consumer and industry representatives. Rottenberg and Brashears each headed a meeting for each group. Individuals could either attend personally or call into a teleconference number. Brashears joined USDA from Texas Tech University where she was a professor of food safety and public health and the director of the International Center for Food Industry Excellence. She was nominated to be USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety, and is awaitiing U.S. Senate confirmation.
She is a past chair of the National Alliance for Food Safety and Security and of the USDA multi-state research group. She is a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors and has received numerous awards including the International Association for Food Protection Laboratorian Award, the American Meat Science Association (AMSA) Distinguished Research Award, the AMSA Distinguished Industry Service Award and was listed in the National Provisioner’s Top 25 Future Icons in the Beef Industry.
Rottenberg was appointed administrator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) in May 2018. From August 2017 through January 2019, she served as acting deputy under secretary of the Office for Food Safety. From April 2016 to August 2017, she served as FSIS deputy administrator. Earlier in her FSIS career, she provided leadership to the agency in key positions including chief operating officer, and chief of staff.
Kiecker was named deputy administrator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s FSIS in May 2018. From August 2017 through January 2019, Kiecker was the agency’s acting administrator. He had led FSIS operations for more than 30 years.