Over the course of almost a full year, laboratory documents were falsified by the owner and the quality control officer of a Connecticut meat processing company. None of the reported beef samples were actually taken and tested for E. coli. The letterhead of a formerly utilized inspection laboratory was fraudulently used to falsify the test documents, an act that carries a maximum term of five years in prison. Fortunately, no illness was reported from consumers who purchased the meat products.
Over the past week, the USDA has undergone changes in top leadership. Following 39 years with FSIS, Deputy Undersecretary for Food Safety and FSIS Administrator Al Almanza retired. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced the appointment of Carmen Rottenberg as acting deputy undersecretary for food safety and Paul Kiecker was named acting administrator for FSIS. Rottenberg and Kiecker will serve in these roles until presidential nominees are confirmed by the Senate.
“Highlights for me have been using a science-based approach to modernize the poultry slaughter inspection system, implementing the Public Health Information System (PHIS), reducing listeriosis and E. coli O157:H7 illnesses from FSIS-regulated products and adding six other dangerous strains of E. coli to the zero-tolerance list, and implementing performance standards for Campylobacter and Salmonella.” – Al Almanza reflecting on his time leading the USDA
Almanza has been hired by U.S.-based meat processor JBS to serve as the global head of food safety and quality assurance. The company has more than 300,000 customers in more than 150 countries. “During his long and storied career at FSIS, Al earned the respect and admiration of his peers for his team-based management approach and his willingness to partner with both industry and public health organizations to ensure the provision of safe, quality food to consumers,” said JBS Global President of Operations Gilberto Tomazoni in a company press release. “JBS is privileged to have someone of Al’s caliber join our company.”
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