Supervalu officials say USDA's risk-based surveillance, inspection and enforcement model for meat and poultry safety to be applied to the raw food products that the Food and Drug Administration now regulates.
Based in Minneapolis, Supervalu among the nation's larger grocery chains, with more than 2,500 retail stores and 35 distribution centers.
Supervalu officials point specifically to USDA's program because it "has helped reduce the Salmonella incidence in poultry and has highlighted the challenges associated with reducing E. coli O157:H7 in ground beef." In testimony to the House Agriculture Committee, John Hanlin, Supervalu's vice president for food safety, said other agricultural commodities such as leafy greens, tomatoes, fresh fruits, peanuts, pistachios, grains and other raw agricultural commodities that would benefit from such a monitoring system.
"In other words, expand USDA's risk-based inspection system to include commodities that today receive minimal inspection due to budget challenges at FDA," he added.
Hanlin told the committee that a risk-based model could work in a variety of ways, such as creating a single food agency. Another would be for USDA to regulate all raw commodities while FDA focused on further processed food products.
President Barack Obama is having USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and Health and Human Services nominee, Kathleen Sebelius, chair a food safety working group. The assignment is to study and recommend out to revamp U.S. food safety policy. Following the peanut-based Salmonella outbreak, FDA has received harsh criticism for its inconsistent oversight. Vilsack has championed expanding USDA's risk-based approach beyond the agency.