FSIS has confirmed that the agency will extend the comment period on its Draft Guidance: HACCP System Validation until June 19, 2010, to allow adequate time for distribution and comment by interested parties. The draft guidance to aid small and very small plants in meeting HACCP validation requirements was provided for public comment in a March 19, 2010, letter to AMI and other industry trade associations. After the initial comment period, FSIS is expected to publish a revised guidance document in the Federal Register that will provide an additional opportunity for public comment.

The guidance document has raised concern regarding potential additional requirements imposed on plants. "AMI is pleased that the agency has given the industry an opportunity to express its concerns during the development of its validation guidance. AMI looks forward to working with the agency to develop a workable document that provides clarity for both the industry and FSIS personnel. It is important that all parties have a clear understanding of the regulatory requirements and how they should be implemented," said AMI Executive Vice President James Hodges.

The March 19 letter signed by FSIS Administrator Almanza responds to an earlier September 22, 2009 letter sent by meat and poultry trade associations that contained suggestions for clarifying existing validation requirements. The draft guidance and associated information can be found at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/PDF/HACCP_Validation_Ltrs.pdf.

Source: AMI

Congresswoman calls for investigation of Marine food services contract

Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) announced that she is asking the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate the U.S. Marine Corps' primary food services vendor for excessive waste and possible food safety concerns. Sodexo, which is currently nearing the end of its eight-year, $881 million contract with the Marine Corps, has been under scrutiny following multiple reports of food safety non-compliance and a drastic, mid-contract change to its food operations.

"The government has an obligation to use taxpayer dollars responsibly," said Rep. Sanchez, who is the ranking female member on the Armed Services Committee. "There are significant concerns that Sodexo's food services have been more expensive and less effective than originally promised. I'm asking the GAO to investigate these claims, which will help our Armed Forces better evaluate future food service proposals. This is part of a larger effort to target waste in government."

In 2001, the Marine Corps decided to consolidate its food service contracts at the national level in the hopes that it would save about $20 million per year and free up 594 food specialists for other assignments. To meet these goals and win the new contract, Sodexo proposed centralizing much of the Marine Corps food production at a cook-chill facility in Tennessee, where food would be prepared, refrigerated, and shipped around the country for reheating on base. But in July 2007, Sodexo terminated its Marine-related operations at the facility even though its cook-chill technology gave Sodexo a competitive advantage during the bidding process.

Sodexo's decision came just one month after a voluntary USDA recall of nearly 3,000 pounds of chicken that may have been contaminated with the Listeria bacteria, some of which was shipped to Camp Pendleton and the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego. In fact, public records show that there had been a pattern of food safety problems at the facility both before and after the USDA recall, including 70 USDA records of food safety noncompliance between December 2005 and September 2009.

Source: Office of Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez

Stouffer's unveils toasted subs line

Stouffer's Corner Bistro brand has introduced a new line of toasted subs, featuring slices of artisan roast beef, salami and pepperoni paired with an assortment of provolone, mozzarella and cheddar cheeses. Marinara and white cheddar cheese sauces are topped with sauteed onions and peppers to round out the sandwiches. The 6-inch sub roll is toasted for a crunchy texture on the outside, but soft and fluffy on the inside.

"We have consistently heard from consumers that while they love restaurant quality food, they can't always eat out," said Brett White, director of marketing for Stouffer's. "These on-trend, hot Toasted Subs have all the flavor and satisfaction one would expect from a sub shop. Plus, busy consumers can enjoy them whenever and wherever they want, right out of the freezer."

The toasted subs are available in four varieties:
--  Meatball Italiano: Italian seasoned meatballs with grilled red and green peppers, onions, mozzarella cheese and marinara sauce on Italian bread
--  Roast Beef & Cheddar: Shaved slices of roast beef topped with sautéed onions, mushrooms and cheddar cheese on Italian bread
--  Philly-Style Steak & Cheese: Strips of beef steak topped with provolone cheese, grilled onions and green peppers on Italian bread
--  Zesty Italian:  Slices of salami and pepperoni topped with mozzarella and provolone cheeses, grilled red and green peppers, and pepperoncinis with a white cheddar cheese sauce on Italian bread.

Source: Stouffer's