Inspectors to focus on meat plants with problems

By Ahmed ElAmin

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Fsis, Foodborne illness

Meat processors with poor food safety standards will face tougher
and more frequent inspections under proposals made by a regulatory
arm of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The new system proposed by the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) will target meat and poultry plants deemed to pose the greatest potential risk to public health. Plants with a history of problems will also be targeted, while those deemed to have a good record will be inspected less frequently. At first, the FSIS will target the risk-based system at processing plants and later expand it to slaughterhouses. Under the new rule, processors will be evaluated by the type and volume of product they manufacture. The FSIS will also consider the number of recalls, non-compliance reports, enforcement actions and other regulatory actions taken against plants. Consultation on the proposals closed on 12 February. They are contained in a report prepared by Resolve, Inc. on behalf of the FSIS. The FSIS has already been using a risk-based system to focus its resources. An initiative unveiled in February is an attempt to focus the agency's salmonella testing on plants that show the least success in controlling the pathogen. The agency's Listeria monocytogenes regulatory sampling program initiated in 2003 was also a risk-based approach to inspection, the FSIS stated. Since 2000, the percentage of regulatory product samples that tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes has fallen by 56 per cent. In 2005, 0.64 per cent of regulatory samples taken were positive for this dangerous pathogen. The results are even more dramatic for product sampling for E. coli O157:H7, which has declined by about 80 per cent. Only 0.17 percent of FSIS' samples were positive in fiscal year 2005. Comparing human foodborne illness data from 2005 with 1998 data, E. coli O157:H7 human illness rates are down 29 percent, Listeria monocytogenes is down 32 percent and Campylobacter declined 30 percent. In a bid to help some of the industry's smaller players understand current and upcoming food safety regulation, the FSIS has been holding meetings across the country. The next one will be on February 25 in Madison, Wis. for the owners and operators of small and very small plants. The sessions will cover a regulatory walk-through of sanitation standard operating procedures and the hazard analysis and critical control point (HACCP) and rules of practice standards.

Related topics: Meat, fish and savoury ingredients

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