Remarks for Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Richard Raymond,
before the 100 Years of FSIS celebration, on June 28, 2006,
Patio of the Jamie L. Whitten Building, Washington DC.
Good afternoon and thank you all for coming. I would like everyone
to please rise for the singing of our national anthem, which
will be performed by Ms. Donna Carter.
I'm happy to see so many people here to help us celebrate the
100th Anniversary of the Meat Inspection Act and honor a legacy
of public health service at USDA that I see continuing far into
Events like this one today, offer us the opportunity to learn
about our past challenges, celebrate our current achievements
and plan for future successes. That's why it's especially nice
to see this turnout bringing, consumer advocates and industry
representatives here today alongside FSIS employees, both past
The achievements we are celebrating today could never have
happened without the cooperation of our food safety partners.
I know that together we can continue to strengthen our food
safety system and improve public health.
One of the greatest successes has been FSIS' evolution from
a command-and-control regulatory agency using simple inspection
techniques based on touch, sight and smell into a public health
agency that prides itself on preventing illnesses through sound
science and intensive public health outreach and education campaigns.
Before I go any further, I want to mention the special guests
we have here today to help us recognize this landmark anniversary.
We will be hearing from Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Chuck
Conner, FSIS Administrator Dr. Barbara Masters, and Anthony
Arthur the author of the recently published Upton Sinclair biography
Radical Innocent: Upton Sinclair.
FSIS will also be honoring the late Senator Albert J. Beveridge,
who sponsored the 1906 Meat Inspection Act, with a certificate
of appreciation. Senator Beveridge's grandson Albert J. Beveridge
III, is here today to accept it on behalf of the Beveridge family,
and I'm glad that he could join us — and share some time with
And, as if that wasn't enough, everyone here will also get
to see the premiere of FSIS' 100 Year Commemorative Video and
you didn't even need to buy an expensive movie ticket. Again,
it's good to have you all here to celebrate 100 years of food
safety at USDA.
By any measure, the 1906 Meat Inspection Act was a watershed
event in the history of food safety and public health in the
United States. One that was brought about by an outraged nation
revolted at the conditions that were so nauseatingly detailed
in Upton Sinclair's novel The Jungle.
It's hard to imagine that the terrible conditions described
in The Jungle were once commonplace in the slaughter and meat
processing industry at the turn of the 20th century.
Sinclair describes these unregulated facilities as places where
"There was never the least attention paid to what was cut up
for sausage." Where "
old sausage that had been rejected, and
that was moldy and white
would be hosed with borax and glycerin,
and dumped into the hoppers" for sale.
In response, the 1906 Meat Inspection Act was passed and signed
into law by President Theodore Roosevelt. It was desperately
needed at the time and put an end to those horrible conditions.
It also signaled the beginning of USDA's dedication to protecting
and improving public health.
This legacy successfully lives on 100 years later in the daily
activities of USDA's Office of Food Safety, which oversees the
Food Safety and Inspection Service. Every day our dedicated
employees work hard to protect public health by ensuring a safe,
wholesome food supply.
We have made remarkable progress in this endeavor since the
passage of the Meat Inspection Act. The best indicators of that
success directly relate to pathogen reduction and public health
outcomes, indicators that could not even be measured when the
Act was originally created. It's amazing the difference that
a 100 years make. However, the real difference is made by our
employees. It's because of their skill and determination that
I can stand up here and brag about our successes.
Since 2000, the percentage of regulatory samples that tested
positive for Listeria monocytogenes has fallen by 56
percent so that in 2005 only .64 percent of regulatory samples
taken were positive for this dangerous pathogen. The results
are even more dramatic for E. coli O157:H7, which has
declined by nearly 80 percent, meaning only .17 percent of FSIS'
samples are positive.
Now we don't have regulatory data from 1906, since regulatory
microbiological testing did not even start until nearly 90 years
after the passage of the Meat Inspection Act. But I am confident
that our successes have exceeded the wildest expectations of
FSIS' historical forerunners.
More importantly, we have seen a remarkable decline in the
incidence of human illnesses caused by foodborne diseases. Comparing
2005 data with 1998 data, E coli. O157:H7 rates are
down 29 percent, Listeria monocytogenes is down 32
percent, Campylobacter has decreased by 30 percent,
and cases of Yersinia declined 49 percent. These numbers
are a direct reflection of FSIS' science-based policies, its
employees' dedication and commitment, and the efforts of our
food safety partners.
Let me stop for a moment to again honor the men and women of
FSIS who serve the American people every day. It's plain to
see that their work touches the lives of nearly everyone in
But with these numbers I just mentioned, we again run into
the problem of not having enough data from back then to make
direct comparisons. However, there are a few indicators that
we can compare.
In 1906, one in five coffins contained a child under five years
old. Today that number is only one in 100 coffins. That's an
amazing accomplishment brought about by the amazing advancements
we have seen in public health over the past 100 years. It's
had a profound impact on our society and everyone in this room.
It's why life expectancy went from 45 years in 1900 to 75 years
in 2000. More children are surviving today because we are doing
a better job at ensuring they never get sick from Smallpox,
Cholera, Pneumonia or Salmonella in the first place.
Clean water, vaccines, antibiotics — AND a safe food supply
made possible thanks to USDA's dedication to improving public
health have played important roles in this amazing phenomenon.
I am proud to be a small part of USDA's public health legacy
along with all of our dedicated and talented employees. And
I mean really small. I have only been on the job here for about
a year, or just under 1 percent of the Act's existence. Even
so, I am looking forward to working with everyone here to realize
the promising future of USDA's Office of Food Safety and FSIS.
In fact, we have already begun to make that future a reality.
In 1994, FSIS identified E. coli O157:H7 as an adulterant.
The steps taken in the past 12 years have been instrumental
in the huge declines we have seen since that momentous announcement.
In 2003, FSIS targeted Listeria monocytogenes. The
Agency used a risk-based approach when developing its groundbreaking
interim final rule, which has successfully reduced the prevalence
and number of illnesses caused by this deadly bacterium. And
in February of this year, we once again focused the Agency's
attention on dramatically reducing the prevalence of a harmful
pathogen. This time it was Salmonella.
FSIS unveiled an 11-step risk-based initiative to put an end
to the troubling increase in Salmonella prevalence among certain
products we inspect. Early indications are very positive. Thanks
to the dedication of our employees and industry partners, I
know that this will be the first success of the next century.
Introduction of Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Chuck
I would like to introduce our first guest, Deputy Secretary
of Agriculture Chuck Conner. He has had, and continues to have,
a distinguished career in public service. Prior to his tenure
at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Deputy Secretary Conner
served on the National Economic Council as a Special Assistant
to the President for Agricultural Trade and Food Assistance,
focusing primarily on Farm Bill issues. In addition he has also
served as President of the Corn Refiners Association, Inc.,
and as the Minority and Majority Staff Director of the Senate
Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee. Deputy Secretary
Conner grew up on a family farm in Benton County, Indiana, which
remains in his family and is operated by his older brother,
Mike. Please help me welcome Deputy Secretary of Agriculture
Introduction of FSIS Administrator Dr. Barbara Masters
Now, I would like to hand the podium to Dr. Barbara Masters.
I believe everyone here knows FSIS' Administrator. She began
her FSIS career in 1989 as a veterinary medical officer near
Hot Springs, Arkansas, and has since held a variety of posts
throughout the Agency, both in the field and here at headquarters.
Dr. Masters served as the Acting Administrator for FSIS from
March 2004 until August 2005, when she became FSIS Administrator.
I can testify from personal experience that her varied experience
has proven invaluable to me and the department as she leads
FSIS' critical mission of protecting public health through food
safety and food defense.
Introduction of Anthony Arthur
When I was first considered for the position of Under Secretary
for Food Safety, I made it a priority to reread The Jungle,
by Upton Sinclair. I wanted to better understand the history
of food inspection in the U.S., the origin of what we do, and
why we do it.
I read the book on my flights, stopovers, and in my hotel room
during my frequent trips to DC. It made a profound and lasting
impact on me, and it has a prominent position on my office's
That's why it's my pleasure to introduce our Keynote speaker
today. A former Fulbright scholar, Anthony Arthur is the author
of a number of works, including Literary Feuds: A Century of
Celebrated Quarrels–from Mark Twain to Tom Wolfe.
A professor emeritus, Arthur retired two years ago from the
English department at California State University at Northridge,
where he had taught American literature since 1970. His most
recent book is Radical Innocent: Upton Sinclair, a detailed
account of Sinclair's rich public and private life and his affect
on the nation. Kirkus Reviews describes his new book as a "lively,
unsparing look at the turn-of-the-century muckraker, social
critic and novelist who changed the way America did business."
Please help me welcome Anthony Arthur.
Introduction of Dr. Curt Mann
I would now like to introduce Dr. Curt Mann, the Deputy Under
Secretary of Food Safety. Dr. Mann brings to the Office of Food
Safety an extensive background in public health, food safety
and food defense. Experience that the Office of Food Safety
uses every day as we work to strengthen the U.S. food supply.
Prior to his appointment, Dr. Mann served with the Biological
and Chemical Defense Policy Directorate of the White House Homeland
Security Council as the director of Food, Agriculture, and Water
Security. He was instrumental in the development and drafting
of Homeland Security Presidential Directive 9 "Defense of United
States Agriculture and Food" signed by President Bush in January
2004. Dr. Mann has also served as an Executive Assistant for
Homeland Security to the Secretary of Agriculture, where he
focused on coordinating the Department's role in homeland security.
Dr. Mann earned his veterinary medical degree from Kansas State
University, and spent five years in practice as a large- and
small-animal clinical veterinarian. Please give him a big round
Presentation of Certificate of Appreciation to Beveridge
Family [To be used by Dr. Mann]
I want to thank Albert J. Beveridge, III, grandson of Senator
Albert J. Beveridge, for coming to our celebration today and
to ask him to join me at the podium. A founding partner of the
law firm Beveridge & Diamond, he has practiced law for 40 years,
in the public and private sectors. In addition to being a member
of numerous civic and philanthropic boards, Mr. Beveridge served
as President and Chief Executive Officer of the George C. Marshall
Foundation. A foundation dedicated to promoting the values of
selfless service, dedicated effort and strength of character.
He exemplifies his grandfather's dedication to public service.
[To be used by Dr. Mann after Albert J. Beveridge is at the
I would like to offer this Certificate of Appreciation to your
family on behalf of the U.S Department of Agriculture's Food
Safety and Inspection Service.
It's meant to recognize the courageous and resolute leadership
of your grandfather, Senator Beveridge, demonstrated by his
introduction of the 1906 Meat Inspection Act.
According to President Teddy Roosevelt, Senator Beveridge was
the first to call his attention to abuses in packing houses.
On this centennial anniversary, the consumers of America give
their thanks for his pioneering role in one of the most important
public health measures ever seen in this country.
Introduction of Bryce Quick
Up next is FSIS' Deputy Administrator Bryce Quick. Bryce Quick
joined FSIS in November 2001 as director of FSIS' Congressional
and Public Affairs Office. He was responsible for managing and
disseminating vital Agency information, in the form of speeches,
newsletters, press interviews, and Congressional testimony to
varied audiences. More recently, Mr. Quick served as FSIS Assistant
Administrator for Public Affairs, Education and Outreach. In
this role, he directed the Agency's strategies and initiatives
for public affairs, media, congressional relations, consumer
education and employee communications. Before coming to FSIS
Mr. Quick worked as a legislative aide in the office of the
Honorable Thomas S. Foley from 1990 to 1995, and served as a
professional staff member for the House Committee on Agriculture.
With that said, the stage is yours Bryce.
It's remarkable how much has changed since the passage of the
1906 Meat Inspection Act. In 1906, only 163 establishments were
federally inspected. A century later, we inspect nearly 6,000.
In 1906, poultry inspection was not even mentioned in the Act
because there simply wasn't enough demand. However, times changed
and now over 29 billion pounds of poultry is inspected and eaten
in the United States every year. Even more is exported.
And at the time of the 1906 Act's passage, consumers probably
didn't know what an "egg product" even was. Again, times changed
and now FSIS has sole responsibility over egg products. Of course,
I think consumers may still not exactly know what an "egg product"
We know that over the past 100 years, change has not been limited
to the number of plants inspected, or the types of different
products under inspection. USDA's very approach
to food safety has evolved.
The Agency's names, the tools we use, and the regulations we
enforce have changed, but two things have remained constant.
The first is the fact that USDA's dedication to fulfill its
public health mission through ensuring a safe and wholesome
food supply — has never wavered.
The second is that the Agency has consistently shown its ability
to adapt to the changing realities of food safety and public
health. Events that demanded that the agency adapt to new realities
have been evident throughout the last hundred years.
Expansion of the workforce to begin enforcement of the Poultry
Products Inspection Act, the introduction of humane slaughter
procedures into our inspector's daily activities, and the more
recent implementation of the Hazards Analysis and Critical Control
Points rule are just a few examples of adaptations the Agency
Today, we are working to improve our ability to adapt to unexpected
events like these with new initiatives that will build a more
robust risk-based inspection system.
In 1906, public opinion called out for change and the government
recognized the need for a strong federally-run inspection system
to put an end to the unsanitary practices running rampant at
the turn of the century.
Our regulatory role expanded and evolved along with the meat
and poultry industry throughout this past century in order to
ensure that the American public will continue to have a safe
and wholesome food supply.
Rather then fearing change, I believe it is critical that we
embrace it. We must build upon our existing science-based framework
to improve our ability to identify and prevent food safety risks
before they ever harm a consumer.
The safety of our food supply has always depended on USDA being
able to change with the times. However, I believe that we can
do better, and must do better in order to continue to see the
same sort of public health success that we have witnessed in
the past century.
Our current system, while strong, is not suited to the future
realities of food safety and public health, and we'll need to
improve our ability to anticipate and quickly respond to food
safety challenges before they negatively affect public health.
An enhanced risk-based system offers us this capability.
Remember, FSIS already uses risk-based approaches to food safety.
Our goal must be to further enhance and strengthen that system
so that we're prepared for the next century's challenges. But
this will require change, and I know that change can be uncomfortable.
We all know that we can save lives with sensible science-based
policies, and together I know we'll do just that. I'm looking
forward to seeing our future accomplishments, which will be
brought about by what we create together in the coming years.
This is something that we must accomplish. After all, as we
have seen the state of public health is constantly evolving.
We cannot afford the risk of letting ourselves, our partners,
or our nation's food safety systems stagnate. Standing still
in public health is really just a polite way of saying that
we are moving backward.
We have a real opportunity to make sure that our food safety
system will be better able to meet our nation's changing needs.
At big anniversaries like this there is a tendency to concentrate
on what it was like 10, 50, and 100 years ago. But I hope that
everyone will leave here today instead thinking about what the
future holds for food safety and public health. It truly is
a future of promise, built on the legacy of the last century.
Thank you all again for coming out to celebrate 100 years of
food safety. I especially want to thank Deputy Secretary of
Agriculture Chuck Conner, Anthony Arthur and Albert Beveridge.
I would also like to ask that everyone who worked on the 100
year activities to please stand up or raise their hand. Please,
they deserve more applause than that. These volunteers from
throughout the Office of Food Safety and FSIS gave countless
amounts of time to make both today and the events to follow
On behalf of Drs. Mann and Masters, as well as Mr. Quick, I
want to extend our deepest appreciation. Thank you again, and
please everyone help yourselves to the ice cream and centennial
cake that are at the back of the patio.