The beef industry has come a long way since the early nineties in regard to food safety programs. Dr. H. Russell Cross, Head, Department of Animal Science at Texas A&M University, asks if they’re doing enough and suggests the next logical steps to advance the state-of-the-art.
In the past two decades, we have Implemented mandatory HACCP programs, developed a list of best practices and devoted considerable resources to research in pre- and post-harvest areas. Add to those advances the aggressive post-harvest intervention programs we’ve implemented and we’ve made significant progress in the “War on Pathogens.”
But has it been enough? Do we have systems in place to provide evidence on a routine basis regarding the effectiveness of our interventions?
The meat industry must ask if we have aggressively implemented the “Best Practices” we’ve developed and if we effectively dealing with regulators and consumer groups. Are we using the best available science and technology to produce safer beef? From an image standpoint, are we pulling together as an industry to make certain that we are speaking with one voice? As an industry, do we strive to implement strong food safety programs from the ranch to the table?
Do we pull together as an industry and as a scientific community to make certain that regulatory policy is based on strong science? Do we have the resources from state, federal and industry sources to support the development of new knowledge and science?
Unfortunately, the answer to the above questions is NO!
It’s time for the beef industry to aggressively take the lead on the food safety agenda. No more finger-pointing up and down the food chain, no more allowing USDA policies to be implemented based on flawed or no science and no more major recalls/illnesses because we did not do enough.
It’s time to demonstrate the effectiveness of the systems we currently have in place. Does available data validate our current interventions? Are they working as well as we think?
It’s time to speak with one voice—let the world know that the U.S. beef industry is serious about producing safe beef. It’s time to let solid, validated science influence industry actions. It’s time to spread the strong beef safety program message throughout the food chain. It’s time to commit the necessary resources to get the job done.
Step I. Industry leaders (major companies, associations, etc.) must agree that they want to make this happen. They must be ready to take their food safety programs to the next level.