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USDA, HHS continue food safety efforts

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius commended the Department of Homeland Security for opening a center devoted to ensuring the safety of foods imported to the United States.

The Commercial Targeting and Analysis Center (CTAC) for Import Safety is operating under the direction of Customs and Border Protection (CBP). It was created on the recommendation of President Obama's Food Safety Working Group, which is charged with advising the President on how to upgrade the US food safety system for the 21st century.

"As co-chairs of the Food Safety Working Group, we are committed to improving the safety of food produced in the US, and also improving the safety of all the food that makes it to the American consumers' dinner tables," said Secretary Sebelius. "With so much food coming from abroad, we must do all we can to ensure that it conforms to the same safety standards as our own food safety systems."

"As part of the Food Safety Working Group's efforts to strengthen the food safety system in this country, we identified close cooperation between federal agencies as a key to achieving real progress," said Secretary Vilsack, adding that the new CTAC announced is an important step toward the type of collaboration necessary to ensure that Americans have access to a safe and healthy food supply."

"In addition to guarding against terrorism and crime, securing our borders and facilitating legitimate trade involve ensuring the safety of imported products," said Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. "This new targeting center will enhance the inspection of goods entering our country by centralizing and strengthening federal efforts to protect US consumers."

The import safety CTAC, located in Washington, D.C., is one of CBP's 6 commercial targeting centers in the US. It will specifically target shipments of imported cargo, including food, for possible safety violations. The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and other partnering government agencies, including the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, will provide on-site expertise at the Center.

"The expertise FSIS, FDA, and our other partners bring to the table is invaluable to ensuring that America's imported food supply is safe," said CBP Acting Commissioner Jayson P. Ahern. "We look forward to continued cooperation with the Food Safety Working Group and its future recommendations."

As part of its collaboration with CBP, FSIS will extend its enforcement efforts to target ineligible imports investigate suspicious shipments based on manifest information filed prior to the arrival of goods at US ports.
For more information of the Food Safety Working Group, please visit www.foodsafetyworkinggroup.gov.

Source: USDA

Natalie Berkhout

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