The Office of Inspector General (OIG) today released a report outlining new recommendations for the purchase and handling of ground beef that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) distributes to school cafeterias, food banks and other recipients, U.S. Senator Herb Kohl said. Kohl is the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee which has jurisdiction over funding for the USDA, which includes the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS), and the Food and Drug Administration. Kohl has worked to increase the USDA's and FDA's budgets to bolster their efforts to keep the food supply safe. Over the past few years, Kohl succeeded in increasing the number of food safety inspectors domestically and abroad, and developing new, regional rapid response teams across the country to identify and isolate contaminated produce at its source.
The OIG report recommends that prospective or current vendors demonstrate an acceptable food safety record in the commercial market or be ineligible to supply ground beef to the federal government's food and nutrition programs. The OIG report recommends implementing new microbial sampling and testing methods for E. coli and Salmonella, two common causes of contamination, and subjecting all lots of fresh chilled boneless beef and finely textured beef to a two-tier testing program.
"I'm pleased that many of the recommendations put forward today are already underway or close to implementation at USDA. There is no room for error in handling the food that goes directly to our kids' lunchrooms. I look forward to working with Agriculture Secretary Vilsack to see that these recommendations move forward quickly," Kohl said.
Kohl has worked with the President's Food Safety Working Group, the interagency group tasked with overhauling the food safety system. For FY2009, one of Kohl's priorities was to increase funding for the FDA by nearly $325 million over the previous year. The FY2010 Agriculture Appropriations bill included a $346 million increase for FDA and the FSIS.