Industry News - AM

FSIS launching new method of food safety assessments


By Tom Johnston on 8/25/2008


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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 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 environment.

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 training.



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