HARRISBURG, Pa., Nov. 7 Two state officials traveling the state to gain insight and raise public awareness about food issues in the commonwealth brought their tour to Bedford, Blair and Centre counties today.
The tour by Agriculture Secretary Dennis Wolff and acting Health Secretary Everette James is 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 depends on many factors, from farmers producing a quality crop to consumers storing food at the appropriate temperature," said Wolff. "Food travels hundreds of miles and passes through many steps before it reaches consumers' hands, and 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 two of the four-part tour, Wolff and James visited the New Paris United Methodist Church Food Pantry in New Paris, Bedford County; Sheetz corporate headquarters and Sheetz Brothers Kitchen in Claysburg, Blair County; and Penn State University's food science facilities in University Park, Centre County.
"Everyone plays a role in assuring the safety of our food supply," James said. "When working together, commonwealth producers, suppliers and consumers, along with state and federal food safety agencies, can make our food as safe as possible."
The tour included a roundtable discussion at Penn State's Food Science Building 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."
Two stops on the tour remain and include public round table discussions featuring consumer testimony about food safety. The discussions will be held at 7 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 10, at the Columbia County Extension Office in Bloomsburg; and at 7 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 17, at the Westmoreland County Conservation District Center in Greensburg.
"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," said James.
"I look forward to an open conversation between key stakeholders during the roundtable discussions," said Wolff. "The invaluable information shared 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 the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and Office of Homeland Security, as well as input from food processors, retailers and health officials.
CONTACT: Nicole L. C. Bucher (Ag)
Holli Senior (Health)
SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture