The USDA announced yesterday new guidance designed to prevent tainted meat products from reaching consumers. Like the Food Safety Modernization Act, which did no impact the USDA and its enforcement of the Meat Inspection Act, the new guidelines place an emphasis on testing and a focus on repeat offenders.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) today announced two steps designed to prevent meat products that contain illegal residues from reaching consumers: the issuance of a compliance guide that will help livestock slaughter establishments avoid purchasing animals with illegal drug or other chemical residues; and increased testing of animals from producers with a history of residue violations.
“This new residue guidance will help industry to prevent certain animals from entering the marketplace and will contribute significantly toward our goal of protecting consumers,” USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen said. “Coupled with increased testing of those with a history of violations, we are providing a pathway for those producers to correct deficient practices.”
The residue compliance guide is intended for all livestock slaughter establishments, particularly those for dairy cows and bob veal calves, which account for the majority of residue violations. The guide outlines basic measures that slaughter establishments can employ to prevent or reduce residues in livestock.
FSIS administers the U.S. National Residue Program (NRP) to keep products with illegal residues from reaching consumers. As part of today’s announcement, FSIS stated that a key part of the NRP, the Residue Repeat Violator List, has been revised and streamlined to be more user-friendly. The list now includes only producers who have supplied more than one animal with an illegal residue level in the past year. FSIS is interested in receiving comments on the list, including how to improve its usefulness, and whether the Agency should provide additional information on producers who supply animals with violative residues.
The Agency’s increased testing applies to animals from producers who have been identified by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as producing livestock with residue violations. Since 2008, FSIS has increased testing of animals from producers whose practices have resulted in residue violations. FSIS also recently increased residue testing of carcasses in establishments that fail to apply adequate residue control measures.
FSIS will post the compliance guide, which can be utilized immediately, on April 25 on its Web page at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/
In the past two years, FSIS has announced several new 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:
- Poultry inspection modernization that will reduce the risk of foodborne illness by focusing FSIS inspection activities on tasks that advance its core mission of food safety and removing outdated regulatory requirements that do not help combat foodborne illness.
- 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.
(Source USDA NEWS Release)
Contributed By: Michael “Mick” Guerini, Microbiologist and Technical Writer
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