In a recent meeting with industry representatives, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service announced it will soon provide more information to establishments regarding the agency’s sampling programs.

In addition to providing individual sample results via email and PHIS reports, the agency will soon send Quarterly Establishment Information Letters that will include more information regarding the results of the agency’s sampling programs for pathogens and residues for the past year.  These automatically generated letters will be sent every quarter to the establishment in a similar fashion to how individual results are now disseminated.

The letter will provide both summary results and detailed results for the establishment, and will only include data for products produced at the particular establishment. In the case of pathogens (i.e., Salmonella, Campylobacter, E. coli O157:H7 STEC and Listeria monocytogenes), the information will include serotype, PFGE pattern and antimicrobial resistance profile. The letter will also provide industry averages (percentage of positive samples) for Salmonella and Campylobacter, based on the same size plant.  

An appendix will be included that provides information on:

  • Serotypes commonly associated with human illness,
  • PFGE pattern recurrence over the last five years at the establishment,
  • FDA’s Antimicrobial Drug Classification, and
  • Harborage and Cross-contamination.

At present, FSIS does not plan to provide other industry-wide data in the letters;  however, FSIS is considering whether to make other industry-wide data on issues such as serotypes, PFGE and antimicrobial resistance available on its website, similar to how the agency issues its quarterly residue report (

Consistent with FSIS’ increasing focus on pathogens of public health significance, the letters will not be limited to data. The letters will also discuss FSIS actions that could be taken based on the results, such as increased testing or a Food Safety Assessment. In discussing the letters, FSIS officials have made clear that the agency expects establishments to consider the information presented in the letter to aid in the evaluation of process control and any potential improvements to improve food safety.

The letters will have a phased implementation. FSIS will issue a notice then start sending letters to establishments in one circuit (the pilot circuit has not been selected yet). Thereafter, the letters will be disseminated to establishments in one district before being disseminated to establishments nationwide. The intent is to implement fully by the end of the Fiscal Year 2017. 

As always, establishments are encouraged to continue to use the data available to them, through their own testing programs as well as FSIS sample results, to improve their food safety system. NP