Food

Working the phone for food safety comes naturally to Eskin

The coronavirus pandemic has left some hating and some loving telephonic communications options like those Zoom calls. USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service’s recently released public calendars for May and June are pretty good evidence that Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Sandra Eskin likes talking on the phone.

Or at least, she is pretty good at it. The FSIS public calendar shows Eskin held 25 telephonic meetings with people outside the federal government during May and June.

By contrast, FSIS Administrator Paul Kiecker initiated just one meeting on May 19 for an agency update for regulated establishments and industry representatives. He attended many with Eskin.

For the rest, it was all Eskin, all the time. The Deputy Under Secretary is USDA’s top food safety official as the White House has not appointed a new Under Secretary for Food Safety to succeed Mindy Brashears.

Food safety education put a lot of people on the phones with Eskin on May 5, including Shelley Feist, Executive Director, Partnership for Food Safety Education (PFSE); Michael Roberson, Director of Corporate Quality Assurance, Publix Super Markets; Harold Chase, Legislative Director, NSF International; Ashley Eisenbeiser, Senior Director of Food and Product Safety Programs, Food Marketing Institute; Barbara Masters, Vice President of Regulatory Programs, Tyson Foods; Carmen Rottenberg, Managing Partner, Groundswell Strategy; Dan Fone, Senior Director of Food Safety, Walmart; Shauna Henley, Faculty, University of Maryland Extension; and Steven Mandernach, Executive Director, Association of Food and Drug Officials.

Government officials who joined Eskin included: Atiya Khan, Chief of Staff, OFS; Paul Kiecker, Administrator, FSIS; Terri Nintemann, Deputy Administrator, FSIS; Jeremy Todd Reed, Chief Operating Officer, FSIS; Spencer Pretecrum, Acting Deputy Chief of Staff, FSIS; Carol Blake, Assistant Administrator, OPACE; Aaron Lavallee, Deputy Assistant Administrator, OPACE; and Laura Scott, Team Lead, OPACE.

The next day, Eskin and Atiya Khan, Chief of Staff, OFS; Paul Kiecker, Administrator, FSIS; Terri Nintemann, Deputy Administrator, FSIS; Karen Hunter, Chief of Staff; FSIS; Jeremy Todd Reed, Chief Operating Officer, FSIS; and FSIS Assistant Administrators gave updates to small and very small plants in Georgia.

On May 13, Eskin did a telephonic “Meet and Greet” with Eric Deeble, Policy Director, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC); Kelly Nuckolls, Senior Policy Specialist, NSAC; and Michele Pfannenstiel, CEO Dirigo Food Safety.

Former FSIS Carmen Rottenberg reconnected with Eskin for an “operational update” on May 20. Rottenberg moved on to be managing director of Groundswell Strategy after leaving the agency.

Also, on May 20, Eskin met separately with consumer and industry representatives. Also on those calls from FSIS were: Atiya Khan, Chief of Staff, OFS; Paul Kiecker, Administrator, FSIS; Terri Nintemann, Deputy Administrator, FSIS; Karen Hunter, Chief of Staff, FSIS; Jeremy Todd Reed, Chief Operating Officer, FSIS; and FSIS Assistant Administrators.

Wake Fluckey, Vice President of Technical and Regulatory Affairs, Clemens Food Group, and Eskin met on May 27 about the New Swine Inspection System. Clemens Food Group is a pork producer based in Coldwater, MI.

Eskin met in April with several pork producers and their organizations, who wanted USDA to appeal a Minnestoa district Court decision slowing slaughter line speeds.

Wade Fluckey, Vice President of Technical and Regulatory Affairs, Clemens Food Group, was back on June 3 with Joe Hughes, Production Supervisor, Clemens Food Group; and Timothy Strittmatter, Clemens Food Group.

The New Swine Inspection system remained the topic of discussion with Eskin, and joining her were Atiya Khan, Chief of Staff, OFS; Paul Kiecker, Administrator, FSIS; Terri Nintemann, Deputy Administrator, FSIS; Karen Hunter, Chief of Staff, FSIS; and Robert Witte, Deputy Chief of Staff, FSIS,

A day earlier, Eskin’s first June meeting with Scott E. Webb, Sean Simpson, and Steven J. Weers —  Wholestone Farms executives —  was also about the New Swine Inspection System. The Fremont, NE-based Wholestone Farms has an annual slaughter capacity of nearly 3 million haad.

Dan Turton, Senior Vice President of Global Governmental Affairs, Tyson; and Barbara Masters, VP Regulatory Policy, Food, and Agriculture, Tyson met on June 4 with Eskin and Atiya Khan, chief of staff for the Office of Food Safety about Cybersecurity. The meeting came after Tyson competitor JBS reportedly paid $11 million in cyber ransom.

On the same day, Eskin met with Stuart Pape, Senior Partner with the Polsinelli law firm, about cell-cultured technology. Pape is a Washington D.C. attorney with regulatory experience involving FDA, USDA, and similar health and safety regulatory bodies worldwide.

Atiya Khan, Chief of Staff, OFS; Sheila Novak, Deputy Assistant General Counsel, OGC; Matthew Michael, Director of Regulations Development Staff, FSIS; Jeremy Todd Reed, Chief Operating Officer, FSIS, were also present for the Eskin-Pape meeting.

On June 9, poultry food safety was the topic of a meeting Eskin held for consumers’ interests, including James Kincheloe  of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Sarah Sorscher of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Connor Eichenwald of the Center for Science in the Public Interest,


Michael Taylor of Stop Foodborne Illness; Mitzi Baum of Stop Foodborne Illness; Thomas Gremillion of the Consumer Federation of America, Brian Ronholm of Consumer Reports, Scott Faber, of Environmental Working Group, Craig Hedberg of the University of Minnesota, J. Glenn Morris of the University of Florida, and Martin Wiedmann of Cornell University.

The government delegation headed by Eskin included: Atiya Khan, Chief of Staff, OFS; Paul Kiecker, Administrator, FSIS; Terri Nintemann, Deputy Administrator, FSIS; Jeremy Todd Reed, Chief Operating Officer, FSIS; Karen Hunter, Chief of Staff, FSIS; Robert Witte, Deputy Chief of Staff, FSIS; Mark Williams, Deputy Chief of Staff, FSIS; Denise Eblen, Assistant Administrator, OPHS; Kis Robertson-Hale, Deputy Assistant Administrator, OPHS; Emilio Esteban, Chief Scientist, FSIS; Rachel Edelstein, Assistant Administrator, OPPD; April Regonlinski, Deputy Assistant Administrator, OPPD; Matthew Michael, Director of Regulations Development Staff, FSIS; Melissa Hammar, Deputy Director of Regulations Development Staff, FSIS; Janell Kause, Scientific Advisor, OPHS; and Mary Porretta, Regulations Development Staff, FSIS;

On June 11, Leafy Green Testing was the topic of a meeting of Eskin and Dennis Nuxoll, vice president of government affairs for Western Growers. Western Growers represents fresh produce growers in California, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico.

Eric Deeble, Policy Director, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC); Kelly Nuckolls, Senior Policy Specialist, NSAC; Michele Pfannenstiel, CEO Dirigo Food Safety talked with Eskin June 16 about “small and very small plant issues.”

Eskin was on the line June 17 for separate telephonic meetings with consumer and industry representatives. Joining her from the government side were Atiya Khan, Chief of Staff, OFS; Paul Kiecker, Administrator, FSIS; Terri Nintemann, Deputy Administrator, FSIS; Karen Hunter, Chief of Staff, FSIS; Jeremy Todd Reed, Chief Operating Officer, FSIS; and FSIS Assistant Administrators.

Vaccines, likely for animals, were the topic of a June 24 that also brought out a crowd. From outside the agency were: Eric Steiner, Senior Director of Government Affairs, Elanco Animal Health; Sandy Aehle, Associate Advisor, Technical Consulting, Elanco Animal Health; Shrinivas Mane, Principal Research Scientist and Head of Geonomics, Elanco Animal Health; Lisa Wallenda Picard, Senior Vice President for Policy, Trade and Regulatory Affairs, National Turkey Federation; and Ashley Peterson, Vice President of Science and Technology, National Chicken Council.

And on the FSIS side of the table were: Atiya Khan, Chief of Staff, OFS; Paul Kiecker, Administrator, FSIS; Terri Nintemann, Deputy Administrator, FSIS; Karen Hunter, Chief of Staff, FSIS; Denise Eblen, Assistant Administrator, OPHS; Kis Robertson Hale, Deputy Assistant Administrator, OPHS; Emilio Esteban, Chief Scientist, FSIS; and Janell Kause, Scientific Advisor, OPHS,

Eskin also found time on June 25 with NBC and on June 28 with CBS for “summer grilling” interviews.

Wade Fluckey, Vice President of Technical and Regulatory Affairs, Clemens Food Group; Joe Hughes, Production Supervisor, Clemens Food Group; and Timothy Strittmatter, Clemens Food Group, met with Eskin for another New Swine Inspection System session on June 25. And that meeting continued on June 28,

Eskin began wrapping up the month with a large June 29 session with Stop Foodborne Illness (STOP) and the Alliance to Stop Foodborne Illness.

Here’s who signed in: Mitzi Baum, CEO, STOP Foodborne Illness; Sean Leighton, Global VP of Food Safety, Quality & Regulation Affairs, Cargill; Patty Griffin, Chief of the Enteric Diseases Epidemiology Branch, CDC; Steven Hermansky, Vice President Scientific and Reg Affairs, Conagra Brands; Lawrence Ball, Customer Facing Quality Manager, Congra Brands; Shawn Fear, Director of Quality, Conagra Brands; Sherry Williamson, Vice President of Global Quality and Food Safety, Kellogg; Craig Letch, President, Empirical Foods; Sherry Williamson, Vice President of Global Quality and Food Safety, Kellogg; Tim York, Board Chairman, California LGMA; Randall Huffman, Chief Food Safety and Sustainability Officer, Maple Leaf Foods; Spir Marinakis, Vice President of Food Safety and Quality Assurance, Maple Leaf Foods; Bethany Wolf, Global External Partnerships Program Manager, Mars; Gregory Pritchard, Vice President Quality Management, US Nestle; David Clifford, Director Food Safety, US Nestle; Sally Klinect, Site Quality Manager for Research & Development, US Nestle; Michael Taylor, General Manager, Verizon; Robert Swenson, Board Treasurer, STOP Foodborne Illness; Benjamin Chapman, Professor of Food Safety, North Carolina State University; Jorge Hernandez, Quality Assurance VP, Wendy’s; Jaime Ragos, Dave Theno Fellow for STOP Foodborne Illness, STOP Foodborne Illness; Sara Mortimore, Vice President of Global Food Safety, Walmart; Craig Wilson, Vice President of QA & Food Safety, Costco Wholesale; Dan Fone, Senior Director Food Safety, Walmart; Gillian Kelleher, President and CEO, Kelleher Consultants LLC; Carletta Ooton, Vice President of Product Assurance, Risk and Security, Amazon; Adam Edwardson, Board of Directors of the Foundation for Meat, Poultry & Research Education, Empirical Foods; Kathleen Ensley Allison, Sr. Director, Taco Bell; Sadri Jazayeri, Quality Assurance, Food Safety Manager, Taco Bell Company; Leslie Birchard, Administrative Assistant, Conagra Brands; Vanessa Coffman, Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Chicago; and Megan Kenjora, Senior Manager of Food Safety Culture, The Hershey Company.

Also from FSIS were:Atiya Khan, Chief of Staff, OFS; Paul Kiecker, Administrator, FSIS; Terri Nintemann, Deputy Administrator, FSIS; Karen Hunter, Chief of Staff, FSIS; Jeremy Todd Reed, Chief Operating Officer, FSIS; Robert Witte, Acting Deputy Chief of Staff, FSIS; Mark Williams, Acting Deputy Chief of Staff, FSIS; Sally Ann Iverson, Speechwriter, FSIS; Denise Eblen, Assistant Administrator, OPHS; Kis Robertson-Hale, Deputy Assistant Administrator, OPHS; Emilio Esteban, Chief Scientist, FSIS; Rachel Edelstein, Assistant Administrator, OPPD; and April Regonlinski, Deputy Assistant Administrator, OPPD

Finally, Eskin squeezed in more “summer grilling interviews — one with Fox 32 in Chicago and another with “This Morning with Gordon Deal.”

Finally, Eskin did one more meeting on the New Swine Inspection System with ag policy lobbyist Randy Russell,

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