Statement of CFA's Carol Tucker Foreman on Resignation of Ann Veneman as Secretary of Agriculture

November 15, 2004
Chris Waldrop, 202-797-8551

Americans who care about food safety and nutrition will miss Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman. While we have often disagreed with Bush Administration policy on food safety, Veneman was always willing to meet with consumer representatives and to hear our concerns. As a former California official, she was used to working with consumer advocates and comfortable in exchanging views with us. Unlike many previous agriculture secretaries, she had not been associated with the meat industry, a major concern for an official charged with protecting public health by assuring the safety of meat and poultry.

On a number of occasions Secretary Veneman took actions to protect public health despite meat industry objections. In 2001 she rescinded an order to end the zero tolerance for E. coli O157:H7 in ground beef purchased for the school lunch program and urged the White House to release a proposed rule to control Listeria monocytogenes. In 2003 Secretary Veneman argued that it was time to modernize meat safety enforcement powers. Industry opposition ended that effort. CFA was critical of USDA's actions to control BSE.

Secretary Veneman recognized the increasing problem of obesity in this country and took some steps to begin to address it. Under her direction USDA updated the Dietary Guidelines and is revising the food guide pyramid.

Republican presidents have often turned to the meat industry to fill the USDA position. This obviously raises serious conflict of interest issues that should concern all American consumers.