Requiring meat and poultry that is suspected of being tainted to be held off the market until tests for harmful substances come back is the basis of a plan USDA is proposing today. USDA said the proposal would reduce the amount of unsafe food that reaches store shelves once it is enacted.
Currently, when FSIS collects a sample for testing, the sampled products are requested but not required to be held until test results are known.
USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) said that they believe 44 of the most serious recalls between 2007 and 2009 could have been prevented if this procedure had been in place.
The plan by FSIS was a result of recommendations from the Food Safety Working Group (FSWG) which focused on prioritizing prevention, strengthening surveillance and enforcement, and improving response and recovery.
As for a reaction from the U.S. meat industry, the American Meat Institute (AMI) said it strongly supports the plan, according to Dow Jones News. "We are pleased that USDA has indicated that it will make mandatory our voluntary test and control procedures," said AMI President J. Patrick Boyle. "We believe that this policy will prevent needless recalls, further ensure food safety, and maintain consumer confidence."
The Federal Register notice announcing test and hold and soliciting public comments will be published in the near future. To view the proposed requirement, visit http://www.fsis.usda.gov/OPPDE/rdad/FRPubs/2005-0044.pdf. FSIS invites comments on this proposed change in policy and procedures. Once the notice is published in the Federal Register, comments must be received on or before 90 days, and may be submitted through the Federal eRulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov, or by mail to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, FSIS Docket Clerk, Room 2-2127, George Washington Carver Center, 5601 Sunnyside Ave., Mailstop 5272, Beltsville, MD 20705. All comments must identify FSIS and docket number FSIS-2006-0044. In a subsequent Federal Register notice, the Agency will respond to those comments, make any appropriate changes to the policy and procedures, and announce the effective date of the new policy.
In addition, on March 16, USDA announced implementation of revised and new performance standards aimed at reducing the prevalence of Salmonella and Campylobacter in young chickens and turkeys. USDA expects the new standards – which require establishments slaughtering chicken and turkey to make continued reductions in the occurrence of pathogens – to prevent as many as 25,000 foodborne illnesses.