USDA states policies protecting consumers from foodborne illness

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WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a series of prevention-based policy measures that will better protect consumers from foodborne illness in meat and poultry products. These measures will significantly improve the ability of both plants and USDA to trace contaminated food materials in the supply chain, to act against contaminated products sooner, and to establish the effectiveness of food safety systems.

"The additional safeguards we are announcing today (May 2) will improve our ability to prevent foodborne illness by strengthening our food safety infrastructure," said USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen. "Together, these measures will provide us with more tools to protect our food supply, resulting in stronger public health protections for consumers."

The policy measures include the following:

  • USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) intends to implement new traceback measures in order to control pathogens earlier and prevent them from triggering foodborne illnesses and outbreaks. FSIS is proposing to launch traceback investigations earlier and identify additional potentially contaminated product when the Agency finds E. coli O157:H7 through its routine sampling program. When FSIS receives an indication of contamination through presumptive positive test results for E. coli, the Agency will move quickly to identify the supplier of the product and any processors who received contaminated product from the supplier, once confirmation is received. This proposed change in policy gives FSIS the opportunity to better prevent contaminated product from reaching consumers. Learn more about the traceback proposed change in policy.
  • FSIS is implementing three provisions included in the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 (the 2008 Farm Bill). The new regulations, published as a Final Rule and directed by Congress, require establishments to prepare and maintain recall procedures, to notify FSIS within 24 hours that a meat or poultry product that could harm consumers has been shipped into commerce, and to document each reassessment of their hazard control and critical control point (HACCP) system food safety plans. Learn more about the Farm Bill provisions.
  • FSIS is announcing the availability of guidance to plants on the steps that are necessary to establish that their HACCP food safety systems will work as designed to control the food safety hazards that they confront. This process, called "validation," enables companies to ensure that their food safety systems are effective for preventing foodborne illness. This notice announces that the draft guidance document is available for comment. Learn more about HACCP validation draft guidance.

In the past two years, FSIS has announced several measures to safeguard the food supply, prevent foodborne illness, and improve consumers' knowledge about the food they eat. These initiatives support the three core principles developed by the President's Food Safety Working Group: prioritizing prevention; strengthening surveillance and enforcement; and improving response and recovery. Some of these actions include:

  • Performance standards for poultry establishments for continued reductions in the occurrence of pathogens. After two years of enforcing the new standards, FSIS estimates that approximately 5,000 illnesses will be prevented each year under the new Campylobacter standards, and approximately 20,000 illnesses will be prevented under the revised Salmonella standards each year.

  • Zero tolerance policy for six Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) serogroups. Raw ground beef, its components, and tenderized steaks found to contain E. coli O26, O103, O45, O111, O121 or O145 will be prohibited from sale to consumers. USDA will launch a testing program to detect these dangerous pathogens and prevent them from reaching consumers.

  • Test and hold policy that will significantly reduce consumer exposure to unsafe meat products, should the policy become final, because products cannot be released into commerce until Agency test results for dangerous contaminants are known.

  • Labeling requirements that provide better information to consumers about their food by requiring nutrition information for single-ingredient raw meat and poultry products and ground or chopped products.

  • Public Health Information System, a modernized, comprehensive database about public health trends and food safety violations at the nearly 6,100 plants FSIS regulates.

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Washington State  |  May, 03, 2012 at 02:23 PM

The USDA are nothing but organized criminals. Their only interest is putting the screws to small family farms and making deals with the multinational corporations so that every drop of our food production will be outsourced to other countries. Don't fool yourself, that is their ultimate goal. They want to make it where all we're able to eat are poisoned and diseased imports. They're not the least bit concerned about the public, only with the deals they make with multinationals. All the while, the USDA will look the other way as diseased and poisoned food cross into our country. They refuse to enforce country of origin labeling (COOL). I've refused to buy meat from the grocery store for a few years. I've told butchers, if they want to sell to me, they need to list where that animal came from. They've told me that it's the USDA that has approved the product of: Canada, USA, & Mexico. COOL is singular, NOT plural. I resent and consider it extortion that I pay with my taxes, one penny, to this organized tyranical criminal bureaucracy.

Ohio  |  May, 04, 2012 at 04:01 PM

Full circle tactic! A few years ago we had USDA personnel that rose through the ranks and designed programs supported by sampling to assure the consuming public that the products being consumed were in fact wholesome. Then the USDA decided there was a political means of doing the job with better results and coined the phrase HACCP to ensure the industry performed programs that assures the wholesomeness of products in commerce. Lawyers agreed and finalized a high dollar program with cultural ramifications to train USDA employees in a new system that is better and not command controlled. With this new program, sampling was deemed unnecessary due to cost and the inability to test everything. So, guess what? We are back to assuring safety through sampling and that is supposed to re-assure the public of safety. With all the ingenuity in Washingtom and throughout government, will someone ever decide the problem is not in the industry but instead in the government that regulates the industry and the serious lack of training of inspectors who are supposed to be able to manage programs written by lawyers and microbiologists at a much different knowledge base.

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