Raising the Bar
Raising the Bar
Many new and important technologies and practices have been deployed during this time period, including:
- Enhanced aggressive microbiological sampling and testing programs for E. coli O157:H7, Listeria, Salmonella, and other bacteria
- Changes to cattle feeding practices that reduce bacteria in live animals
- Anti-pathogen technologies such as steam pasteurization cabinets, steam vacuum systems, and carcass-washing systems that destroy bacteria on carcasses and meat cuts during processing in fresh meat plants
- New ingredients that are being added to some ready-to-eat meat and poultry products to prevent the growth of bacteria
- New principles for sanitary design of plants producing ready-to-eat meat and poultry that help better sanitize and destroy bacteria in the environment
These developments resulted in promising reductions in bacteria on raw meat and poultry announced last year, including:
- Nov. 24, 2003 — USDA announced that the rate of Salmonella in raw meat and poultry dropped by 66 percent over the past six years and by 16 percent compared with 2002
- Oct. 17, 2003 — USDA released data showing a one-year, 25 percent drop in the percentage of positive Listeria monocytogenes samples from ready-to-eat meat and poultry products, and a 70 percent decline compared with years prior to the implementation of the HACCP system
- Sept. 17, 2003 — USDA released data showing a drop in the number of E. coli O157:H7 positive samples in ground beef collected in 2003 compared with prior years. Samples collected in 2003 showed a 0.32 percent positive rate for E. coli O157:H7, down from 0.78 in 2002 and 0.84 in 2001. Data for 2004 are on track to show even more marked declines, AMIF relays.
- Developing new FSIS employee training programs
- Strengthening food security measures
- Modernizing enforcement activities. The document also introduces many new initiatives to continue FSIS’ mission of ensuring food safety.
- Enhancing data integration —FSIS is developing what it calls “innovative ways” to anticipate and predict food safety risks to protect public health. The agency is examining ways to secure and analyze a wealth of data obtained from industry and other sources so trends can be recognized and problems quickly identified and corrected.
- Applying risk into regulatory and enforcement activities — FSIS is beginning to field-test the Hazard Control Coefficient (HCC), a measurement of the effectiveness of pathogen controls used by individual establishments. The HCC establishes the level of plant compliance through an analysis of in-plant and agency verification testing, as well as inspection data. The HCC will help the agency better understand the frequency and types of food safety failures so that better responses can be designed and implemented.
- Collecting and connecting public health surveillance data — FSIS is working with the CDC and the FDA on public health trends. Data that links foodborne illness outbreaks with specific foods need to be connected with prevalence data of specific pathogens in specific foods. The Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network, or FoodNet, allows the agency and its partners to work toward this end by determining the burden of foodborne disease, monitoring foodborne disease trends, and determining the extent of foodborne diseases attributable to specific foods. A critical component of this goal is the development of a mathematical model to help estimate illnesses caused by various food commodities.
- Improving food safety beyond our borders — FSIS is working to establish a Food Safety Institute of the Americas (FSIA) to merge the region’s resources and provide a focal point for the exchange of food safety information throughout North America. The agency wants to assist in the development of common food-safety standards and harmonize food-safety education, information, and communication throughout the region. Early in August, FSIS’ Murano announced the establishment of the FSIA, a cooperative educational and research organization designed to promote food safety and identify and develop educational programs throughout the Americas.
- In June, Murano signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Pan American Health Organizations to improve the safety of meat and poultry products that are traded among the nations of the Western Hemisphere.