LIVE FROM E. COLI SUMMIT: processors urged to question new FSA format


By Tom Johnston on 9/17/2008


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CHICAGO Meat processors should familiarize themselves with the Food Safety and Inspection Service's new methodology of conducting food safety assessments (FSAs) and the potential problems they will present to the industry.

That was the message from Kerri Harris, president of the International HACCP Alliance, as she addressed more than 150 attendees at a meat industry conference focused on preventing E. coli O157:H7.

The conference is jointly sponsored by the North American Meat Processors Association (NAMP), American Meat Institute (AMI), National Meat Association (NMA), and American Association of Meat Processors (AAMP).

Harris credited FSIS for trying to achieve more consistency in FSAs and continuing to review the new methodology. (See FSIS launching new method of food safety assessments on, August 25, 2008.) However, she criticized using what she characterized as very broad "yes or no" questions that do not relate to food safety programs and regulatory requirements and leave too much to the interpretation of the Enforcement, Investigations, and Analysis Officer (EIAOs) conducting the audits.

Harris pointed to several questions as examples, including "Is the equipment free of cracks, pitting, rust or other defects that could affect cleaning and sanitizing procedures?"

"That depends on the eye of the beholder, how well my contacts are working that day and how hard I want to look," she said.


Another question asks, "Are there any findings during the course of the FSA that raise a concern as to whether the sanitation system is adequate to meet the sanitation performance standard requirements (e.g. ventilation, condensation, structural integrity)?"

Harris used this question to point out that while FSIS inspectors are in the plants daily tracking such information, EIAOs conducting the new FSAs may come up with findings that conflict with the those of the daily inspectors.

The new methodology introduces an unnecessary layer of regulation on establishments, NMA Director Emeritus Rosemary Mucklow told "There needs to be accountability for the assigned (daily) inspectors, not some new layer on top of these establishments."


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