AMI's Hodges Tells Farm Foundation That
U.S. Food Regulatory System is Working to Ensure Meat and Poultry Safety,
Though Improvements Can Be Made
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U.S. meat and poultry regulatory and inspection system is working to ensure
safe food, though it can be improved further, according to AMI Executive
Vice President Jim Hodges, who addressed the Farm Foundation today in
common refrain heard in Washington and other venues is the U.S. food safety
regulatory system is broken and that it has failed the American
people. There is some truth to that argument, but a closer look at
our meat and poultry food safety systems may yield a different conclusion,”
see the slides that accompany Hodges remarks, including relevant charts,
click here: http://www.meatami.com/ht/a/GetDocumentAction/i/48370
told the audience that foodborne illnesses associated with meat and poultry
consumption have declined markedly and noted that roughly a billion meals
are consumed safely each day in the United States.
context, he told the audience that human illness statistics published by
the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the pathogens most
commonly associated with meat and poultry make up only a fraction of the
total foodborne illnesses and deaths in the U.S.
cite these illness statistics not to minimize each and every illness,
hospitalization or death associated with food consumption, but to put the
risk into context,” he said. “Is the sky falling? No.
Still, most rational individuals, including myself, believe food safety can
to Hodges, USDA’s meat and poultry inspection system, run by the Food
Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), is strong with 8,000 inspectors
overseeing approximately 6,300 domestic meat and poultry operations.
Plants processing animals are inspected during all hours the plant is
operating. Plants preparing meat and poultry products are inspected
at least daily. An additional 2,000 federal employees provide
supervision and support services at a total cost of more than $1 billion
average, that equates to about a 1.5 full-time employee equivalent
allocated to each plant at a cost of more than $150,000 per plant per
year,” he said. “The numbers are important in demonstrating that
significant taxpayer resources are already devoted to meat and poultry
plants must have mandatory Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point
(HACCP) plans in place that are designed to prevent problems before they
occur. During the course of a year, FSIS will conduct more than
80,000 microbiological tests to verify that the plant’s production process
is under control. FSIS conducts these verification tests in addition
to the several million microbiological tests the industry does each year.
also said that federal law requires that foreign countries exporting to the
U.S. must have an inspection system equivalent to the U.S. system.
Thirty-three foreign counties are currently approved to ship products to
the U.S. Meat and poultry products arriving at U.S. borders are also routinely
inspected and sampled for laboratory analysis. “We have a strong meat
and poultry inspection system, but it’s important to recognize only the
industry can produce safe food,” he said. “While food processors and
handlers can minimize risks through the use of good management practices,
we cannot guarantee with absolute certainty that all food products are free
from all risks. But progress is being made.”
Since 2000, the industry has reduced the prevalence of E. coli
O157:H7 in ground beef by 45 percent to less than one-half percent. Listeria
monocytogenes on ready-to-eat products has been reduced by 74 percent
to less than 0.4 percent.
improvements have been documented in foodborne illness incidence reported
by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since 2000,
illnesses caused by E. coli O157:H7 are down by 40 percent and listeriosis
is down by 10 percent.
question often debated, he said, is whether or not microbiological
performance standards are needed to improve public health. According
to Hodges, since the performance standards were implemented in the late
in chicken is down 58 percent, Salmonella
in pork is down 68 percent and Salmonella
in ground beef is down 64 percent.
could conclude that the Salmonella
performance standards are having a positive effect. But
the incidence of food borne illness associated with Salmonella has
actually increased over the same time period,” Hodges said. “Are
microbiological performance standards needed? Yes, if properly
constructed to meet a public health objective and they are scientifically
based to measure if food is safe and non-injurious to public health.”
argued that such standards are inappropriate if they are solely based on
achieving an arbitrary outcome that yields no public health benefit.
concluding his remarks, Hodges detailed the steps he believes can enhance
food safety, including:
focus on government inspection programs that are designed and
implemented to protect public health. “Inspection activities that
do not have a direct impact on public health waste scarce resources
and divert attention from issues of public health importance,” he
improvement of preventive process control systems is needed. Mandatory
Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) and Standard Sanitary
Operating Procedures (SSOP) that focuses on prevention versus
detection is the key. The stringency of the control system
should be proportional to the public health risk.
agencies must be fully funded to assure the safety of domestically
produced and imported food is maintained. This is a critical
need for FDA regulated products.
allocation should be based on the public health risk posed by a
particular food and the control measures that are used during the
manufacturing and distribution process to control such risk.
and achievable food safety standards that are scientifically
determined to measure whether the food is safe, not adulterated and
non-injurious to public health are needed. Food safety standards
must be based on quantifiable, measurable standards that have a direct
impact on public health.
the standard setting process the U.S. must assure compatibility with
internationally recognized standards such as Codex Alimentarius to
protect the health of consumers, ensure fair trade practices and
promote coordination of food standards development by the
should be focused on conducting a more through analysis to identify
how and why a foodborne disease outbreak occurred. Each
government agency involved in investigations of foodborne disease
outbreaks or product recalls should be required to report the reasons
such incidences occurred. The reports should focus on how the
food product was harvested, processed, distributed, prepared and
consumed to provide detailed information that would assist food
handlers in preventing future occurrences.
rigorous government inspection and testing is needed to verify that
consumer-ready products are safe. Test results should be
performed under accepted sampling and analytical protocols and meet
objective food safety standards. Testing to determine the
adequacy of process control at interim points during harvesting,
manufacturing and distribution should be conducted by the industry
of a public/private partnership to design and implement a
comprehensive research program to improve food safety is needed.
The research program should be directed by a board of qualified food
safety experts from government, academia and the industry and should
focus on developing risk mitigation and intervention strategies to
prevent foodborne disease outbreaks.
my opinion, the meat and poultry industry has met the challenge of
continuously improving the safety of the products produced. And, the
U.S. has a very good meat and poultry inspection system to assure the
safety of meat and poultry products,” he concluded. “It’s a given
fact that producing safe food is good for customers and good for business,
but the job is not done. Industry pledges its cooperation to work
with all parties to ensure that the U.S. maintains the safest food supply
in the world.”