Yiannas and Eskin pipe their messages to IAFP 2021

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PHOENIX — FDA’s Frank Yiannas and USDA’s Sandra Eskin, two of the federal government’s top food safety officials, were brought together here online Monday for IAFP 2021.

Eskin, who was online from her home, produced her opening remarks ahead of the event. And an interruption in wireless service at the Phoenix Convention Center cut off Yiannas before he could wrap up his presentation for attendees of the annual meeting of the International Association for Food Protection (IAFP).

Yiannas is the principal advisor for food safety to the FDA Commissioner, and Eskin is USDA’s Deputy Undersecretary for Food Safety. Yiannas left top safety and food safety jobs with Walt Disney and Walmart to serve in government, beginning in 2018.

The new Biden administration named Eskin to her USDA post in March. She joined the government from the Pew Charitable Trusts, where she was project director for food safety.

Framed as the “U.S. Regulatory Update,” the two-person panel is not explicitly set up to generate news, but it occasionally happens. This year, the most news came from Eskin.

She confirmed that USDA’s recently announced guideline revisions to control Salmonella and Campylobacter in raw poultry aren’t likely to stop there. If the “best practices” make progress with poultry, she was clear that beef’s persistent salmonella problem would be next.

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has worked on the current regulations for controlling Salmonella and Campylobacter since 2015. The agency is trying to help establishments that slaughter or process raw poultry products to minimize or prevent the risk of the two pathogens in their operations.

Various consumer interests have petitioned FSIS to declare some Salmonella strains as adulterants in meat. Eskin made it clear Monday that FSIS would continue to take a poultry first approach.

The FDA’s traceability work will be a “game-changer” for food safety, Yiannas told the IAFP audience. He marked the passage of the 10th anniversary of the Food Safety Moderation Act (FSMA). He said the reality continues that it is not enough to respond to outbreaks of foodborne diseases when it’s prevention that’s required.

Yiannas said he sees a worldwide food revolution going on, which by necessity extends to food safety.

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