USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Services (FSIS) has announced a plan to share more information about food safety at domestic slaughter and processing facilities. The Establishment-Specific Data Release Strategic Plan will serve to help consumers make more informed food choices, encourage facilities to improve performance, and provide more insights into the strengths and weaknesses of practices at the facilities.
“FSIS’ food safety inspectors collect vast amounts of data at food producing facilities every day, which we analyze on an ongoing basis to detect emerging public health risks and create better policies to prevent foodborne illness,” said USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Al Almanza in an agency release. “Consumers want more information about the foods they are purchasing, and sharing these details can give them better insight into food production and inspection, and help them make informed purchasing decisions.”
The datasets will be published quarterly on data.gov, beginning 90 days after they are published in the Federal Register. FSIS will provide information about processes used at each facility, along with facility codes to allow for the combination of future datasets by facility. The agency will also release results for Listeria monocytogenes and Salmonella in ready-to-eat and processed egg products; Shiga Toxin-producing Escherichia coli and Salmonella in raw, non-intact beef products; Salmonella and Campylobacter in young chickens and turkeys, comminuted poultry and chicken parts; testing data of routine chemical residue in meat and poultry; and advanced meat recovery test data.
The USDA has finalized federal standards to lower the incidence of Salmonella and Campylobacter in ground chicken and poultry (including raw chicken breasts, legs and wings, which comprise about 80% of the chicken that American’s purchase). FSIS updated its microbial testing schedule at poultry facilities and will also start posting food safety performance about companies online.
“This approach to poultry inspection is based on science, supported by strong data, and will truly improve public health,” said USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Al Almanza in an agency press release. “The new performance standards will complement the many other proactive, prevention-based food policies that we’ve put in place in recent years to make America’s supply of meat and poultry safer to eat.”
Intended to achieve at least a 30% reduction in Salmonella illnesses, a pathogen reduction performance standard for chicken parts, ground chicken and ground turkey is being finalized by FSIS. It is doing the same to achieve a 32% reduction in illnesses from Campylobacter in chicken parts and ground chicken. FSIS estimates a low prevalence of Campylobacter in ground turkey and is thus aiming for a 19% reduction.
“Over the past seven years, USDA has put in place tighter and more strategic food safety measures than ever before for meat and poultry products. We have made strides in modernizing every aspect of food safety inspection, from company record keeping, to labeling requirements, to the way we perform testing in our labs,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in the release. “These new standards, in combination with greater transparency about poultry companies’ food safety performance and better testing procedures, will help prevent tens of thousands of foodborne illnesses every year, reaching our Healthy People 2020 goals.”
As part of a federal goal to achieve a 25% reduction in Salmonella illnesses related to meat and poultry products by 2020, USDA’s FSIS has revised and published guidelines for poultry processors. The document, “FSIS Compliance Guideline for Controlling Salmonella and Campylobacter in Raw Poultry”, intends to provide best practices based on scientific and practical considerations for minimizing pathogen levels and meeting FSIS food safety requirements.
The guidance recommends preventive measures that poultry companies can make in the following areas:
Pre-harvest (on the farm)
Sanitary dressing procedures
Further processing practices
FSIS is also seeking comment on the fourth edition of the updated document.
There has been little change in the number of confirmed Salmonella cases, which sicken more than 1 million people annually in the United States. The guidance is part of FSIS’ Salmonella Action Plan, which was announced in December 2013.
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