FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday,
December 11, 2008
Contact: Jeff Cronin, CSPI: 202-777-8370, or Chris Waldrop, CFA:
Next Ag Secretary Should Have Food Safety, Nutrition, and Environmental
Focus, Groups Say
USDA Concerned With More Than Maximizing
Commodity Production, According to Consumer Coalition
of the media speculation on who the next Secretary of Agriculture will
be focuses on candidates lacking experience with food safety, nutrition,
or environmental issues—issues which are at the heart of the U.S. Department
of Agriculture’s mission. Consumer advocates and other public interest
groups are today
President-Elect Barack Obama
appoint an individual who appreciates the diversity of programs administered
by the $95-billion-a-year department, as opposed to a candidate whose primary
experience involves large-scale agricultural production.
food assistance programs are vital to helping millions of Americans survive
in this time of high unemployment and high food prices,” the groups wrote.
“Considering the contribution of the American diet to obesity, heart
disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, and other health problems, USDA must
be more aggressive in promoting healthier diets.”
The groups further pointed out that the Government
Accountability Office had recently identified food safety as one of
needing the attention
of the next Administration. “USDA has a responsibility for assuring the
safety of the nation’s meat, poultry, and processed egg supply and the
Secretary must lead the way in addressing this urgent issue,” the groups
The groups, which included the
Federation of America
Center for Science in the Public Interest
Tables Our Priority
& Water Watch
for Foodborne Illness Research & Prevention
, and the
of Concerned Scientists
, also cited
agriculture’s contribution to global climate change and urged that the
next Secretary pay attention to soil and water conservation issues.
“President Lincoln, who established the USDA,
referred to it as the ‘people’s department,’” said Carol Tucker-Foreman,
Distinguished Fellow at Consumer Federation of America’s Food Policy Institute.
“Unfortunately, USDA has lost its way. It is now dominated by a collection
of special interests, far removed from the people it is supposed to serve.
Given the pressing issues of hunger, food safety and the environment, we
urge President-Elect Obama to honor Lincoln’s vision and choose a leader
who can restore the mantle of “people’s department.”
“The next agriculture secretary should be
someone who wants to promote the consumption of safe and healthy diets—and
diets that minimally harm the environment,” said CSPI executive director
Michael F. Jacobson, a signatory of the letter. “Regrettably, current
USDA policies fall far short of that goal.”
The Center for Science in the Public
Interest is a nonprofit health advocacy group based in Washington, DC,
that focuses on nutrition, food safety, and pro-health alcohol policies.
CSPI is supported by the 900,000 U.S. and Canadian subscribers to
its Nutrition Action Healthletter and by foundation grants.