By Casey Wooten
Nov. 7 — The Agriculture Department office tasked with inspecting meat, poultry and eggs for foodborne pathogens is set to expand its testing as part of its five-year strategic plan.
In its report, the Food Safety and Inspection Service laid out a broad agenda that would increase inspections, toughen food safety standards and expand processes for evaluating imported food products covered by the agency.
“FSIS is expanding the breadth, depth, and frequency of its sampling to better address gaps in testing for pathogens and chemical residues in FSIS-regulated products,” the agency said in the Nov. 4 report.
The agency plans to toughen pathogen reduction standards, increase the percentage of establishments at which FSIS collects samples and streamline its testing process to reduce duplication, the report said.
The agency said it will put a priority on large-scale facilities like retail and warehouse locations.
“With several hundred to thousands of in-commerce facilities that handle FSIS-regulated products in every State, FSIS, with State and local regulatory agencies, must strategically utilize regulatory resources to maximize coverage and efficiencies to ensure that food remains safe as it moves through the supply chain from production to actual consumption,” FSIS said.
FSIS said it would also update its method for estimating illnesses attributed to products the agency inspects, making the data less sensitive to year-to-year fluctuations.
“These updates will provide greater transparency and understanding regarding the pathogens causing the majority of estimated illnesses, facilitating a more detailed assessment of agency progress,” FSIS said.
FSIS said it anticipates an increase in the number of foreign meat and poultry inspection programs looking for an equivalence determination, which is needed for products inspected by the programs to be imported into the U.S. In response to the projected increase, FSIS plans to ramp up resources on imports.
“To strengthen existing efforts in sampling and testing imported products, FSIS will deploy sample collection models that will best inform exposure of the public to food safety hazards from eligible countries and individual certified establishments in those countries,” FSIS said.
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Text of the FSIS plan is available at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/317d14d6-1759-448e-941a-de3cbff289e5/Strategic-Plan-2017-2021.pdf?MOD=AJPERES.
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