In the Jan. 15, 2014, Federal Register, the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) posted a notice announcing its Establishment-Specific Data Release Strategic Plan (Draft Plan).  Comments on the draft plan are due by March 16.

Pursuant to an administration initiative on government transparency and easing administrative burdens, FSIS has developed a draft plan on how the agency intends to publicly release establishment-specific data, what data the agency intends to release, and in what order.  Importantly, the public release of data only applies to FSIS-generated data; data generated by an establishment is not subject to public release under this initiative.

Under the draft plan, FSIS intends to release one new data set “no more frequently” than once a quarter, “although initial releases may be more frequent.”  Before a data set is released, FSIS will publish (through a link in the Constituent Update) a mock-up of what the published data set would look like for stakeholder review and comment. After the review, and any necessary changes, FSIS will post the data set on, assessable directly or through a link on the FSIS Web site.

In the first data set release, FSIS intends to post the demographic data for all meat and poultry domestic establishments. This will be an expansion of the data currently available through the Meat and Poultry Inspection Directory to include, in part: “HACCP size” – large, small, or very small; products the establishments produce; and their USDA official establishment number.”

Also scheduled for early release are each establishment’s individual laboratory results from FSIS’ regulatory testing programs:

•  STEC on raw beef products

•  Listeria monocytogenes and Salmonella on ready-to-eat products

•  Salmonella and Campylobacter (including serotypes) on raw products

•  Routine chemical residue testing, and

•  Advance Meat Recovery testing for central nervous system-type tissue.

FSIS will not publicly release certain testing data, specifically any Baseline Study Data or establishment-specific molecular typing data (PFGE). In addition, FSIS will not release incomplete data, such as any partial or preliminary data sets, e.g., Salmonella performance sample sets. Moreover, no laboratory test results will be released for at least six months after the samples were analyzed to allow FSIS time to review results to ensure accuracy.

Although FSIS indicated release of test results will be a priority, the agency did not commit to releasing information on all of the testing programs at the same time, nor has it committed to completing the release of all the testing program data prior to releasing other data.

Other establishment-specific data that FSIS may release include inspection compliance verification associated with each regulation, humane handling task data and import testing.

Following each release of an establishment-specific data set, FSIS will assess whether the release is effective in terms of providing useful information (whether the information actually is being used, such as being referenced in scientific literature) and easing administrative burden on FSIS (whether there a reduction in the number of FOIA requests filed).

Given the issues raised by the establishment-specific releases, such as implications for trade and the potential use of the data by customers, establishments should consider commenting on the draft plan.