In light of recent food safety incidents, USDA’s duty to maintain the safety of the nation’s food supply is more critical than ever, Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln says.

Lincoln’s comments came while chairing a May 27 Senate Agriculture Committee hearing to consider the nomination of Elizabeth Hagan for USDA undersecretary for food safety. Four additional nominations were also considered by the committee.

“USDA has perhaps no more important mission than maintaining the safety of our nation’s commercial food supply,” said Lincoln. “In light of recent deadly food safety incidents, restoring the public’s faith in the integrity of our food systems will require increased coordination with all relevant agencies.”

Lincoln also noted a food safety issue of particular importance to producers in Arkansas is the implementation of the catfish inspection rule mandated by the 2008 farm bill. During the hearing, Lincoln asked Hagen how, if confirmed, she planned to move forward with developing catfish inspection regulations.

For more on catfish inspections, see http://deltafarmpress.com/news/vietnamese-catfish-farming-0526/.

“The 2008 farm bill was very clear that all catfish, domestic and imported, must meet the highest USDA standards in order to ensure the health and safety of American consumers. The 18-month delay in the implementation of the catfish inspection rule continues to expose consumers to products that originate from countries who do not abide by the same strict safety standards as we do. Today’s hearing was an opportunity to hear from Hagen that this important economic and food safety issue that will be at the top of her agenda if she is confirmed,” said Lincoln.