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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Remarks at Food Safety Event: Press Availability

May 18, 2011


MODERATOR: Good morning, everyone. My name is Carol Guthrie. I'm the Communications Director for the Office of the United States Trade Representative. We are pleased to be here this morning on the occasion of a signing of – the signing of a memorandum of understanding on food safety capacity-building. Many of you had the opportunity to watch that ceremony on our live feed today.

We're pleased to have the participants in the ceremony here to take a few questions this morning. From left to right, from your left to right, we have: Dr. Lin Wei, Deputy Director General of the Import Export Food Safety Bureau, who is a co-chair of the APEC Food Safety Cooperation Forum; also a co-chair of the APEC Food Safety Cooperation Forum, Mr. Steve McCutcheon; we also have, from the World Bank, Ms. Inger Anderson, Vice President for the Sustainable Development Network; we have Ms. Pamela Bailey, President and CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association; Deputy United States Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis; and we also have Commissioner Margaret Hamburg from the United States Food and Drug Administration.

If you'll please identify your outlet when you ask your question. The appropriate participant will step to the podium and answer as well. Thanks very much, and we'll open the floor.

QUESTION: A question for Commissioner Hamburg. You mentioned, I think, in your statement regarding food safety from the APEC region that regulators can't do it all. Can you elaborate a little bit on that? Because you have – as you've seen over the years, you've got stronger and stronger food safety legislation passing Congress.

COMMISSIONER HAMBURG: Sure. Well, I think that the reality of the world we live in is that the food supply is very complex, involving a web of producers, manufacturers, processors, packagers and repackagers, exporters, importers, and that at every step along the way, there are opportunities, unfortunately, for the introduction of contamination or adulteration of products. And we have an obligation to do everything we can to ensure the safety and integrity of the supply chain.

Working together across sectors, importantly, with partners in industry and others to really identify what are the high-risk areas in terms of food production, and how can we reduce those risks together is essential to success in strengthening food safety. And it matters as we think about domestic food supplies that we take this collaborative approach, focused on risk-based strategies and preventing problems from occurring in the first place rather than running after them once they occur. And it matters on an international scale because our food supply is in fact international.

So it's very, very essential. If I as the FDA Commissioner and a regulator want to help ensure food safety for the American citizens whom I serve, I really need to step beyond our borders and help to ensure that regulatory capacity in countries all around the world are strengthened. And success in that comes not just from regulatory authorities, but through the partnership with responsible industry and others. Thanks.

QUESTION: To just follow up on your last comment, how much of a travel budget this year does FDA have?

COMMISSIONER HAMBURG: Well, I don't have that exact number for you, and our travel budget is much broader than what we do in food safety. But I will tell you that in recent years we have dramatically expanded our global presence, including now the creation of foreign offices in many parts of the world. And those offices serve as hubs both for our on-the-ground activities working with companies that produce products exported to the United States, working closely with sister regulatory authorities in those countries and in the regions, and also working with industry and other partners.

We also have, you know, really a very strong portfolio of bilateral and multilateral agreements around information-sharing and cooperative work to strengthen our ability to do our jobs and to provide technical assistance to other countries as they expand their expertise and capabilities. And we also, of course, work with international organizations in order to find ways to really harmonize regulatory standards and approaches to share best practices, and to really make sure that we have open channels of communication that enable all of us to do our jobs more effectively.

QUESTION: Hi. Jody Zamora from AFP. This is a question for Demetrios. I was wondering if you could give us an update on what do you expect on TPP negotiations here in Big Sky.

DEPUTY USTR MARANTIS: I wasn't sure who you were directing that question to until I heard the question, so I guess that would be me. So tomorrow TPP ministers are going to meet. And what I expect them to do is to assess the progress to date and chart a way forward from here to the leaders' meeting in Honolulu so they can determine how to best make as much progress as possible in that period of time.

MODERATOR: Any additional questions regarding today's food safety event? If not, thank you all for coming. The entire event will be available on the web for folks to view later. And thank you to all of our participants today.

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