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WASHINGTON -- Leanne Skelton, a 22-year veteran with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Marketing Service's Fresh Products Branch, will be moving to the Food & Drug Administration for six months to help the agency write produce-safety regulations.

A familiar face to the fresh produce industry, Ms. Skelton is chief of the Fresh Products Branch, which provides fee-based auditing, inspection and grade certification services for fresh fruits and vegetables.

"We are delighted that the FDA sought USDA's counsel and cooperation as they tackle the challenges of ensuring the safety and availability of fresh produce and healthy foods," AMS Administrator Rayne Pegg said in an Oct. 5 press release. "The USDA and the FDA have joined together on listening sessions and farm tours, and are eager to develop a system of regulation that will work for American families and the growers."

USDA and FDA officials have been traveling together to meet with farmers and local food-safety officials, visiting farms in North Carolina, and will soon visit Florida operations, according to USDA.

"We're excited and pleased to see Leanne's assignment to FDA," Kathy Means, vice president of government relations and public affairs at the Produce Marketing Association, told The Produce News. "This is yet another sign of FDA striving to reach out to gather real-world experience as the agency works on fresh produce rules. We were pleased to accompany the commissioner and her staff on a tour of local, family farms in Delaware."

FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg echoed the need to reach out to experts in the produce industry. "It is vitally important for us to hear ideas, concerns and experiences directly from local growers around the country as we develop rules to help protect the safety of fresh produce from the farm to the table," she said in the release. "We will be that much more effective by working closely with farmers, our USDA partners and with state and local food safety agencies."