HARRISBURG, Pa., Nov. 10 State agriculture and health officials touring the state to gain insight and raise public awareness about important food safety issues made four stops in northeastern Pennsylvania today.
Agriculture Secretary Dennis Wolff and Deputy Health Secretary Michael Huff visited the area as part of the Strategy for Agriculture and Food Excellence, or SAFE, initiative, which is a comprehensive plan to address food safety and defense from the farm to the fork.
"Our modern food system is complex and relies on careful preparation, handling and service from beginning stages in farm fields to the end consumer," said Wolff. "These tours are an important step in understanding the precautions Pennsylvania producers, companies, manufacturers and organizations are already taking to ensure the safety of the food supply produced in the commonwealth."
During day three of the four-part tour, Wolff and Huff visited the Wilkes-Barre City Health Department and the city's Commission of Economic Opportunity/Weinberg Food Bank. The pair then toured the Cargill Taylor Beef plant in Wyalusing, Bradford County, and Furmano Foods in Northumberland County.
"A safe food supply is critical to public health, which means each and every one of us has a role in ensuring the food we eat is safe," Huff said. "A collaborative approach between all participants in the process, from food processors and consumers to state and federal safety agencies, is the only sure way to address this potential public health problem.
"The SAFE initiative sends a clear message to all Pennsylvanians that we are committed to protecting their health through a safe, nutritious and abundant food supply."
The tour also included a roundtable discussion at the Columbia County Extension Office in Bloomsburg with Pennsylvania Emergency Management Director Robert P. French and a panel of food safety experts and industry leaders.
"It is important that all Pennsylvanians recognize threats to our food supply, including agro-terrorism," said French. "If food security and defense problems occur, we are committed to identifying and actively containing any and all food safety threats quickly to help ensure the continued health of all commonwealth citizens."
One stop on the tour remains and includes a public roundtable discussion featuring consumer testimony about food safety. The discussion will be held at 7 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 17, at the Westmoreland County Conservation District Center in Greensburg.
"The roundtable discussions provide valuable input from all aspects of the food continuum, from producers to consumers," said Wolff. "The information we gather through this process will be brought back to Harrisburg to develop consumer-focused food safety and security protocols and practices, helping to strengthen the security of our food supply by facilitating coordination among federal, regional, state and local efforts."
SAFE is a cooperative effort between the Pennsylvania departments of Agriculture and Health, in coordination with PEMA and the Office of Homeland Security, as well as input from food processors, retailers and health officials.
Chris L. Ryder (Ag)
Stacy Kriedeman (Health)
SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture; Pennsylvania Department of Health