Vice President Joe Biden was joined by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to announce the key findings of the Food Safety Working Group. Created by President Obama in March to advise the Administration on how to upgrade the food safety system for the 21st century, the Working Group is recommending a new, public health-focused approach to food safety based on three core principles: prioritizing prevention; strengthening surveillance and enforcement; and improving response and recovery.

“There are few responsibilities more basic or more important for the government than making sure the food our families eat is safe,” said Vice President Biden. “Our food safety system must be updated – 1 in 4 people get sick every year due to food-borne illness, and children and the elderly are more at risk. I applaud the Secretaries of HHS and the USDA for tackling this problem head-on and coming up with key recommendations to ensure the health and safety of our food supply and, with it, the American people.”

“There isn’t a single American that isn’t impacted by our efforts to protect the food supply,” said Secretary Vilsack. “We owe it to the American people to deliver on President Obama’s bold promise to greatly enhance our food safety system, moving our approach into the 21st century, employing the best surveillance techniques available, and ensuring that we are doing all we can to prevent illness before it occurs.”

Today, the Working Group announced specific steps designed to advance its core principles:

    * HHS and USDA are targeting salmonella contamination by developing tougher standards to protect the safety of eggs, poultry, and turkey.
    * To fight the threat of E. coli, USDA is stepping up enforcement in beef facilities and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is developing new industry guidance improving protections for leafy greens, melons, and tomatoes.
    * The Obama Administration is building a new national traceback and response system including clearer industry guidance, a new unified incident command system, and improved use of technology to deliver individual food safety alerts to consumers.
    * Finally, the Administration announced a plan to strengthen the organization of federal food safety functions, including the creation of new positions at key food safety agencies and a continuing oversight role for the Food Safety Working Group.

The Food Safety Working Group is chaired by Secretaries Sebelius and Vilsack, and participating agencies include the FDA, Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Commerce, the Department of State, the Environmental Protection Agency, and several offices of the White House.

Officials in the meat-processing industry were optimistic about the findings. “AMI supports a strong federal food safety system that prevents problems and focuses on improving public health,” American Meat Institute representative James Hodges said. “We look forward to working with the Obama administration to develop a food safety system that will benefit consumers, the industry and public institutions that work tirelessly to protect public health.”

The National Meat Association applauded the Working Group’s three guiding principles. "These are principles of universal applicability and the President's Working Group has taken a step in the right direction by adopting them as guidelines," said NMA CEO Barry Carpenter, who was in attendance at the White House meeting. "Details still have to be worked out, but if the Working Group truly starts by acting in a preventive manner, based on good data and analysis, then the opportunity to make real progress exists."

For a copy of the Food Safety Working Group Key Findings go to

Sources: Department of Health and Human Services, American Meat Institute, National Meat Association

Mountain States Rosen achieves highest food safety rating of veal and lamb processors

The Safe Quality Food (SQF) Institute, a leading global food safety and quality certification program and management system, announces Mountain States Rosen (MSR), the nation’s leading American lamb and veal company, has achieved the highest food safety certification of any U.S. lamb and veal processor.

“We are proud of this certification and promise to continue to work rigorously to meet consumers’ high standards for quality — guaranteeing our retail and foodservice partners the freshest possible lamb and veal, produced with the utmost care,” said David Gage, executive vice president sales for Mountain States Rosen.

MSR received SQF Level 2 certification for its facility in Bronx, New York. The facility employs leading case-ready production technologies which result in the best possible eating experience — flavorful, lean, USDA Choice grade lamb and veal.
MSR markets its products under two brands -- Shepherd’s Pride Natural Lamb and Cedar Springs Lamb and Veal. MSR’s Never, Ever Natural Shepherd’s Pride lamb program adheres to strict standards and only accepts animals that have never been administered hormones or antibiotics and are fed a 100-percent vegetarian diet. In addition, the lambs are source-verified from birth to market.

MSR also offers new, innovative, easy-to-prepare and ready-to-cook lamb and veal products that can be found under the Smart Cuisine label and include preparations such as Lamb Cutlet Mediterranean Style, Veal Pizzaiola and Veal with Hunter Sauce. MSR also offers retailers and foodservice operators an EZ cut program for cuts that are easy to fabricate on-site.

Source: Mountain States Rosen

Petaluma Poultry introduces “tray-less” packaging

Petaluma Poultry, the country’s largest organic free-range chicken company, has introduced new tray-less packaging for its popular all-natural Rocky The Range Chicken and Rosie Organic Chicken.

The new packaging eliminates the Styrofoam tray in favor of freezer-safe leak resistant plastic. Petaluma Poultry will be phasing in the new packaging starting with its most popular cut, boneless skinless chicken breasts, available at many Whole Foods locations in California beginning in early July and at other natural retailer locations where the brand is sold.

“Our tray-less packaging reduces our overall packaging volume by 73 percent,” said John Bogert, CMO of Coleman Natural Foods, parent company of Petaluma Poultry. “2.5 million tons of non-recyclable chemical compounds found in Styrofoam end up in landfills each year; removing Styrofoam from our packaging results in 73 percent less volume of waste in the landfill and makes sense for our consumers, our retailers and the environment.”

With Petaluma Poultry’s tray-less packaging, 25 percent more items can fit into a shipping box, reducing the amount of cardboard – and fuel required for transport – for a smaller carbon footprint. “We have been practicing sustainable and environmentally sound farming practices for many years and are proud to introduce packaging that reflects our core principles as a company,” added Bogert. “We look forward to phasing in more environmentally conscious packaging across both our Petaluma Poultry and Coleman Natural brands over the months ahead.”

The new tray-less packaging can also be seen on the Coleman Organic brand in select Costco locations on the West Coast as well. This rollout began in mid June.

Source: Coleman Natural Foods

Oscar G. Mayer, former Oscar Mayer Foods chairman, dead at 95

Oscar G. Mayer, a former chairman of Oscar Mayer Foods and the third Oscar Mayer from the famous family, has died at the age of 95 at Hospice Care in Fitchburg, Wis.

Mayer’s family founded Oscar Mayer Foods, which is now a business unit of Kraft Foods. His grandfather, Oscar F. Mayer, died in 1955, and his father, Oscar G. Mayer Sr., died in 1965. He was chairman of the board until 1977, retiring soon after the company recorded its first $1 billion year.

He is survived by his wife, Geraldine, whom he married in 1999.

Source: Associated Press

Brinker names new COO for Chili's, On The Border

Brinker International Inc. has named Kelli Valade chief operating officer for Chili's Grill & Bar and On The Border Mexican Grill & Cantina. In this role, Valade will oversee operations for more than 1,400 Chili's and On The Border restaurants nationwide.

"Kelli's leadership skills, strategic vision and strong focus on results make her well suited for this latest challenge. Her guidance and drive for success will be instrumental in delivering the flawless execution and outstanding hospitality our guests have come to expect at our restaurants," said Todd Diener, president of Chili's and On The Border.

Valade has been with Brinker International for 13 years, holding various positions, including director of human resources for On The Border, vice president for emerging brands & corporate HR, and her most recent role as senior vice president of Chili's and On The Border PeopleWorks and Brinker Shared Services.

Source: Brinker International Inc.