Johnston on 8/25/2008
Source of Article: www.meatingplace.com
USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service is rolling out
a new methodology of conducting food safety assessments (FSAs) at 5,300 HACCP meat processing plants aimed at
improving the consistency of inspections and documenting findings.
Under the new program, those plants can expect a random FSA at least once
every four years, creating a set cycle for all plants, which had not been
the case in the past.
A new set of questions also will provide a structure by which Enforcement,
Investigations and Analysis Officers (EIAOs) can
better collect data for input in a database. Those questions will be made
available to processors by late September.
"I don't need a cookie-cutter approach to FSAs,
but I need a certain structure that they don't have today," Ken Peterson,
assistant administrator of FSIS's Office of Field
Operations, told Meatingplace.com on the sidelines of National Meat
Association's summer conference in Telluride, Colo.
Peterson said in the interview that his office is trying to prioritize
visits based on risk. Between now and next summer, he said, the new method
will be applied to the 700 to 800 plants that produce 95 percent of all
commodities, from slaughter to canning. Meaning, the agency is starting
with the largest establishments and will work its way down.
Listeria testing added
In addition, for those 2,400 or so plants that produce ready-to-eat product
or other product at risk of harboring listeria monocytongenes, the FSAs will
now include testing and sampling for that pathogen in plant areas including
belts, drains and product, Peterson noted.
Previously, FSAs did not including pathogen
sampling and testing. In-plant USDA inspectors conduct testing and sampling
on a daily basis. FSAs, conducted by EIAOs, are broad inspections that assess all food
safety aspects of a plant, including its products, processes and
The new FSA methodology is part of an overall effort by FSIS to create
uniformity of inspections. The initiative includes the implementation of a
matrix with which FSIS officials can track the effectiveness of inspector