Sandra Eskin was appointed Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in March 2021. In this role, Sandra leads the Office of Food Safety, overseeing the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), which has regulatory oversight for ensuring that meat, poultry, and egg products are safe, wholesome, and accurately labeled.

Prior to joining USDA, Sandra was the Project Director for Food Safety at The Pew Charitable Trusts in Washington, D.C. for over 10 years, and also served as the Deputy Director of the Produce Safety Project (PSP) from 2008–2009, a Pew-funded initiative at Georgetown University. Prior to The Pew Charitable Trusts, Sandra spent nearly 20 years as a public policy consultant to numerous consumer advocacy and public interest organizations, providing strategic and policy advice on food and drug safety, labeling, and advertising. She has served as a member of multiple federal advisory committees related to consumer information on prescription drugs, meat and poultry safety, and foodborne illness surveillance. 

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In this episode of Food Safety Matters, we speak with Sandra [31:22] about:

  • Knowledge gaps in understanding why salmonellosis rates have not decreased, despite a reduction in Salmonella found in chicken samples 
  • Challenges USDA-FSIS faced in trying to meet its Healthy People 2020 and 2010 targets, and why the agency is targeting Salmonella reduction in poultry for Healthy People 2030
  • How USDA-FSIS’ Proposed Regulatory Framework to Reduce Salmonella Illnesses Attributable to Poultry incentivizes industry to meet pre-harvest intervention requirements and follow best practices
  • USDA-FSIS’ plan for educating industry about a standardized, statistical approach to process control under the proposed framework 
  • The potential of naming certain Salmonella serotypes as adulterants under the proposed framework, the serotypes of concern, and what oversight of adulterated product might entail
  • How necessity will drive innovation to develop rapid, accurate, and affordable methods for quantification-based testing, in compliance with the proposed framework
  • Feedback that USDA-FSIS has received from stakeholders on the proposed framework, and how the agency is planning to address stakeholder concerns
  • The relationship between USDA-FSIS’ declaration of Salmonella as an adulterant in breaded and stuffed raw chicken products and the broader proposed framework
  • How USDA-FSIS might measure the efficacy of and fine-tune its approach to mitigating Salmonella illnesses linked to poultry.

This episode of Food Safety Matters also features an interview [21:24] with Vikrant Dutta, D.V.M, Ph.D., Head of Scientific Affairs at bioMérieux. Vik has worked at bioMérieux for more than six years, having previously held the position of Senior Microbiologist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia. He received his doctorates in Veterinary Medicine and Microbiology from North Carolina State University, and has been working in food safety for more than 15 years

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