Pa. Governor Announces Food Safety Council

To provide better oversight of Pennsylvania's food supply from the field to the dinner table, Governor Edward G. Rendell announced on Feb. 25 the formation of the new Governor's Food Safety Council and announced his appointees to the panel.

The first council in the state to focus on food safety, members will advise the Governor on direction for security protocols and practices at all stages of the food supply. The council will also help facilitate coordination among federal, regional, state and local efforts. The council will be chaired by Agriculture Secretary Dennis Wolff and Health Secretary Everette James.

 "A threat to our food supply impacts not only the 63,000 farms in Pennsylvania and the millions of jobs related to the food industry, but the people all over the world that consume the foods we produce. It is critical that we do everything we can to ensure a safe and secure food supply," Rendell said. "The Food Safety Council will help develop and implement the proactive food safety measures we need to protect the well-being of Pennsylvanians and the consumers of our state's many food products."

Council members represent all segments of food production, processing and retailing. They include health and emergency response personnel who are the first point of contact in a foodborne illness outbreak or a suspected threat to the food chain. 

 The council will be the guiding body behind the state's new multi-agency food safety initiative, the Strategy for Agriculture and Food Excellence, or SAFE.

"Our modern food supply is complex, and includes many steps from the initial production in the field to the final product served to consumers, overseen by an array of federal, state and local agencies," Wolff said. "The goals of the SAFE initiative and the Food Safety Council will be to work collaboratively with these agencies and the private sector to plan for, prevent and respond to food safety emergencies."

The SAFE initiative aims to address threats to the safety and security of the food supply, including both intentional and naturally occurring. The initiative was developed by the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health, in coordination with the Office of Homeland Security and Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, as well as input from food processors, retailers and health officials.

Creation of the Governor's Food Safety Council was the first major recommendation of the SAFE initiative, and will help guide future recommendations.

"By bringing together key people who play a role in food safety and security, we will have the ability to respond more quickly to outbreaks and threats to the food supply," James said. "Doing so will further help protect the health of our commonwealth citizens."

The 22-member Food Safety Council will meet quarterly, and members of the council will be appointed for terms of two years, serving until their successors have been appointed. The Governor will fill vacancies that may occur and may replace any member of the council at his discretion.

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