The US department of agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have said “prevention” and “partnership” will inform their efforts to ensure the security of the US food chain.


Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who jointly headed-up the White House Food Safety Working Group, on Friday (31 July) unveiled draft food safety guidelines produced by their respective departments.


Vilsack said that the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) inspectors would begin conducting routine sampling of bench trim – pieces left over from steaks and other cuts that are then used to make ground beef – for E. coli.


FSIS will also issue “streamlined”, “consolidated” instructions to its personnel for inspection, sampling and other actions to reduce E. coli in beef, Vilsack added.


“Making prevention a priority is critical to reducing food borne illness and one of the three food safety principles of President Obama’s Food Safety Working Group,” said Vilsack. “The actions we are taking today will result in safer food in our country, which means healthier children and less costly healthcare.”


Meanwhile, the FDA issued three sets of draft guidelines, aimed at minimising contamination of leafy greens, tomatoes and melons with bacteria that can cause food borne illnesses.


“These proposed controls provide a guide for growers and processors to follow so they may better protect their produce from becoming contaminated,” Secretary Sebelius told a group of stakeholders gathered at the Eastern Market, a public fresh-food market in Washington, DC. “This strategy represents the kind of positive change promised by President Obama.”


The draft guidances are the FDA’s first step toward setting enforceable standards for produce safety.


FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said the move represents a shift in strategy for the agency, from a reactive system to one that is based on preventing food borne hazards


“These new food safety guidelines will facilitate the development of enforceable food safety standards and ensure a safer supply of fresh food for all Americans. The three draft guidances are designed to help growers and others across the entire supply chain minimise or eliminate contamination in leafy greens, tomatoes, and melons that can cause food borne illnesses,” Hamburg said.