Industry News - PM

More E. coli sampling, salmonella program among Obama panel recommendations

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By Ann Bagel Storck on 7/7/2009


A Food Safety Working Group created by President Obama in March on Tuesday announced recommendations that include new standards to reduce salmonella in poultry and increased E. coli sampling in beef products, among other actions.

The recommendations are centered around three core food safety principles, the group said:

  • Preventing harm to consumers is our first priority.
  • Effective food safety inspections and enforcement depend upon good data and analysis.
  • Outbreaks of foodborne illness should be identified quickly and stopped.

E. coli and salmonella prevention

By the end of July, the group stated in a report, USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service will issue improved instructions to its workforce on how to verify that establishments that handle beef are acting to reduce the presence of E. coli. Also by the end of July, FSIS will increase its sampling to find this pathogen, focusing largely on the components that go into making ground beef, the group said.

By the end of the year, FSIS will develop new standards to reduce the prevalence of salmonella in poultry. The agency will also establish a salmonella verification program with the goal of having 90 percent of poultry establishments meeting the new standards by the end of 2010.

Illness traceback and response

The Food Safety Working Group also announced several actions aimed at managing foodborne illness outbreaks more effectively and sharing information in an emergency. These actions include:

  • Within three months, FDA will issue draft guidance on steps the food industry can take to establish product tracing systems to improve national capacity for detecting the origins of foodborne illness.
  • Within three months, federal agencies will implement a new incident command system to address outbreaks of foodborne illness.
  • Within six to 12 months, FSIS will improve collaboration with states by increasing the capacity of its public health epidemiology liaison program to state public health departments through additional hires and expanded outreach.
  • CDC will work with states to evaluate and optimize best practices for aggressive and rapid outbreak investigation, and will launch a new system to facilitate information-sharing and adoption of best practices within 12 months.
  • The federal government will enhance to better communicate information to the public and include an improved individual alert system allowing consumers to receive food safety information, such as notification of recalls. Agencies will also use social media to expand public communications. The first stage of this process will be completed in 90 days.

New positions at FSIS and FDA

The group also announced that within the next three months, USDA will create a new position, chief medical officer, at FSIS. This position, which will report to the under secretary for food safety, is designed to enhance USDA's commitment to preventing foodborne illness.

This month FDA will create a new position, deputy commissioner for foods, to oversee and coordinate its efforts on food, including food safety. This position will be empowered to restructure and revitalize FDA's activities and work with FSIS and other agencies in developing a new food safety system.

To read the group's full report, click here.

To learn more about the Food Safety Working Group and provide feedback, click here.



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