Food Policy Conf News Release

Contact:  Art Jaeger (202/387-6121), or Timothy Willard (202/637-8060)


(Washington, D.C.) — Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman and Joseph A. Levitt, Director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, FDA’s s top policy maker working solely on food issues, head the list of speakers at the 24th annual National Food Policy Conference, to be held Monday and Tuesday, April 30 and May 1, at Washington’s National Press Club.

Also speaking at the conference, held annually by the Consumer Federation of America in cooperation with the National Food Processors Association, will be Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, and Connecticut Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro.

The conference program includes a focus on food and agriculture policy under the new Administration. Levitt will speak mid-morning on Monday on his agency’s food policy priorities for the next few years. Veneman, who became secretary January 20, will address the audience at lunch on Monday. Harkin, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee, and DeLauro, Assistant the House Minority Leader, will offer Congressional views in morning and lunch speeches on Tuesday.

The conference opens Monday with a debate on Europe’s crisis in consumer confidence over food. Discussed will be the roots of European consumers’ distrust of government on food issues and whether similar attitudes could develop in this country. Participating will be two representatives of the United Kingdom: food and health expert Philip James and Neville Craddock of the British Food & Drink Federation. Also on the panel is U.S. food safety advocate Caroline Smith DeWaal of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Immediately after lunch, a consumer advocate, an industry representative and a top Veneman aide will debate whether the food safety advances of the Clinton years will continue under Bush. Participating will be Carol Tucker Foreman of the Consumer Federation of America, Rhona S. Applebaum of the National Food Processors Association, and Dale Moore, Secretary Veneman’s chief of staff.

Also on Monday, workshops will focus on the future of biotech foods, childhood obesity, alcohol responsibility advertising, communicating diet and nutrition advice, natural versus conventional foods, and antibiotic resistance. The biotech food panel will include Iowa corn and soybean grower Laura Foell and the diet communications panel will feature Washington Post fitness and nutrition reporter Sally Squires.

Tuesday’s program opens with a discussion of how family, physical activity and food affect obesity. Participating will be pollster Liz Van Patten, medical doctor Keith Ayoob and Kathy Spangler of the National Parks and Recreation Association.

Workshops Tuesday will cover mad cow disease and risk, regulating genetically engineered foods, corporate mergers in food and agriculture, drinking water safety and merging two key government diet surveys.

A panel on agricultural biotechnology regulations will include Irwin Gordon, CEO of Gruma Corporation in Irving, Texas, and University of Texas law professor Thomas O. McGarity. McGarity was principle author of a recent CFA report calling for mandatory safety testing of GE foods. Subsidiaries of Gruma Corporation produced the taco shells involved in last fall’s Starlink corn recall.

Each year, the National Food Policy Conference explores the top food issues of the day with a diverse mix of policymakers, advocates and scientists. It is held in cooperation with the National Food Processors Association, with technical assistance provided by the International Food Information Council.

The 2001 conference program includes 14 panel discussions and more than 60 speakers and panelists. Media interested in attending should call Art Jaeger of the Consumer Federation of America at (202) 387-6121.