FoodHACCP Newsletter
03/24 2014 ISSUE:592

Members of Congress Ask USDA to Delay Salmonella Plan
Source :
By Linda Larsen (Mar 23, 2014)
Several members of Congress sent a letter this month to the USDA, asking for the delay in the Salmonella Action Plan that Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is going to implement. The Plan’s first provision is the implementation of poultry slaughter modernization, known as HIMP. The letter states that “considering the paucity of data and lack of comprehensive, external peer review, we are not convinced that this plan will either reduce Salmonella infection or promote public health.”
The HACCP Inspection Models Project (HIMP) has been running for 15 years. So far, no data collected suggests that the project has created any reduction in foodborne pathogens. And there is no mandate for microbial testing for Salmonella and Campylobacter in the plan, the only part of the Project that has shown results.
The report issued by the CDC last year titled “Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States” shows that 2 million Americans are sickened with antibiotic resistant bacteria every year, resulting in 23,000 deaths. Salmonella and Campylobacter are in the “serious” category in that report. HIMP must include “direct provisions to reduce the amounts of these pathogens in our food supply, not simply leave it to industry to set its own standards,” according to the letter, which the program does not at this time. The letter also addresses increases in line speeds, which do not promote food safety, public health, or the health of employees working in poultry slaughter plants.
The signers of the letter want to see the USDA assess each proposed change in the Salmonella Action Plan independently and scientifically. They want to see the microbial testing results in HIMP made public, and see system-wide requirements for Salmonella and Campylobacter testing implemented. And they want to see the USDA to implement its own performance standards on chicken parts instead of waiting for industry to issue their own.
The letter is signed by Representatives Louise Slaughter (D- NY, Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Jim Moran (D-VA), Madeline Bordallo (Guam), Tony Cardenas (D-CA), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Joe Courtney (D-CT), Henry Waxman (D-CA), Julia Brownley (D-CA), Matt Cartwright (D-PA), and Steve Cohen (D-TN).

Federal government wants power to fine meat plants for food safety problems
Source :
By John Cotter, The Canadian (Mar 23, 2014)
The federal government is proposing to give itself the power to fine meat-processing plants that break hygiene and other operating rules meant to protect human health.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says the regulatory change would give it another enforcement tool to help protect consumers.
But meat industry representatives and a food safety expert are skeptical.
“These proposed new fines demonstrate our commitment to ensuring that Canada’s stringent food safety requirements are being followed,” Lisa Murphy, a CFIA spokeswoman, wrote in an email from Ottawa.
“AMPs (administrative monetary penalties) will help the CFIA better protect consumers from food producers that fail to comply with federal food safety requirements.”
Inspectors already have the power to issue written warnings to companies when problems at meat plants are found. In serious cases, the CFIA can suspend a plant’s licence and shut it down.
The CFIA said the proposed fines range from $2,000 to $15,000 for violations. They could be imposed on a company that was regularly identified for not following food safety rules.
The Canadian Meat Council represents federally inspected meat-packing and processing companies. Spokesman Ron Davidson said such fines are not needed.
The meat industry does not believe there is a necessity for yet another enforcement tool,” he said.
Davidson wonders why the federal government isn’t seeking to apply such fines to the entire food-processing sector. He suggests Ottawa is singling out the meat industry.
He said the industry wants assurances about how fines would be imposed and what steps would be taken to ensure they would be applied in a consistent way across the country.
“We are not pleased that it is being imposed on us ahead of the other sectors,” he said. “Every inspector is going to have the opportunity to impose fines.”
The CFIA said initially fines will be recommended by inspectors, but issued by area investigators to ensure consistency.
The agency said it wants to see how well the fines work in the meat industry before using them for other food commodities.
Rick Holley, a University of Manitoba food-safety expert, said issuing fines won’t make the meat-processing sector any safer.
Holley said the main challenge the government needs to grapple with is ensuring that food-safety inspectors are rigorously trained to a uniform standard — and that the training is ongoing.
“I don’t think that this attempt is going to improve the safety of food in Canada by one iota,” Holley said.
“The real issue here is the performance of the inspectors in terms of appropriately identifying where problems are that are of significant health impact and then doing followup.”
The proposal for fines follows the release of an independent report last June into the recall of seven million kilograms of beef products from the XL Foods plant in southern Alberta.
Beef from the plant was linked to 18 people becoming ill in 2012 from a potentially deadly strain of E. coli.
The report found the Alberta plant failed to clean equipment properly and that government inspectors failed to notice and deal with problems.
The federal government responded to the report with a plan to improve food-safety inspections and make E. coli controls more stringent.
To make the fines possible the government has said it plans to amend existing agriculture and agri-Food regulations.
It is not clear when Health Canada plans to make the amendments or when the change would come into effect.
“We anticipate the regulations may be finalized this year, and if this happens, the CFIA will work with industry to ensure the new system for meat inspection is implemented effectively.”
The deadline for groups to submit comments to the government on its plan was Saturday.

More Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus Cases Reported
Source :
By Linda Larsen (Mar 23, 2014)
The USDA has reported another 296 cases of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv) last week. That brings the number of cases in the last 10 months to 4,757. The disease was first reported in the U.S. hog population in May 2013, with animals in 27 states infected. Unfortunately, each case report can mean just one animal has been sickened, or an entire herd at one farm is sick.
The virus, which is deadly for baby pigs, doesn’t affect adult hogs. The disease has killed more than 4 million piglets in this country since May 2013. This is most likely going to cause dramatic price increases at the consumer level in the next year, since hog prices are at record highs.The USDA’s estimate of hog slaughter on March 21, 2014 was 360,000, down 51,000 head from a week ago.
Scientists say that the virus does not affect humans, and this disease isn’t a food safety issue. Because the disease is so new, scientists do not know the cause of the disease or how it spreads, and there are no vaccines against the virus in place at this time. Biosecurity efforts, including cleaning trucks used for hauling and mandating shoe coverings for anyone entering a hog barn, may help reduce the spread of the virus. Some farmers hope that sows will develop immunity to the virus and pass that along to piglets.
Some in Congress are asking the USDA to declare their states affected by PEDv disaster areas. The USDA is studying the issue and working on PEDv research and control.




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Teaching Kids Food Safety Tips for a Healthy Next Generation
Source :
By James Croxon, Food Safety and Inspection Service (Mar 20, 2014)
The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) ensures that America’s meat, poultry, and processed egg products are safe and wholesome. Educating the public on proper food handling practices is a core agency mission as well. It’s even more important when one considers the impact safe food handling practices have on children.
With a generation of children brought up relating the word “celebrity” to chefs just as readily as they do to athletes, food safety education has a more receptive audience among teens and young adults than ever before. With the help of parents and guardians, the current generation of children could have fewer preventable cases of foodborne illness than ever before.
The four food safety steps of Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill from the Food Safe Families campaign are key to achieving this goal and are easily taught to children. But we need your help getting those four words to become part of the lexicon of every American. Go ahead, say it with me: Clean, Separate, Cook, Chill; Clean, Separate, Cook, Chill. Say it when you prepare every meal and demonstrate it to your children.
If you have questions, FSIS provides a number of resources that can provide answers. For consumer information about preventing foodborne illness, safe food handling and storage, and the safe preparation of meat, poultry and eggs, you can go on-line and ask Karen, FSIS’ food safety avatar. Ask Karen is an automated system containing answers to thousands of typical hotline questions with live chat available during specified weekday hours. Ask Karen is also available as a mobile app, available for Android and iOS devices.
Another resource is the Meat and Poultry hotline, where our food safety experts can personally answer your questions over the phone, live chat or through email on topics including safe food handling, product dating, product content, power outages and more. The hotline can be reached at 1-888-MPHotline (674-6854) or via e-mail at
But wait. Like a late-night infomercial, there’s more. The agency’s food safety education exhibit, known as the Food Safety Discovery Zone (FSDZ), will be traveling to state and county fairs, community health fairs, festivals, and a host of other public events. When it stops, unpacks and opens its doors, volunteers greet visitors and pass out a variety of materials including coloring books, story books and food safety education pamphlets. The schedule will soon be posted on the agency’s website and tweeted from @USDAFoodSafety.
Whether in person at your local fairground, through a game on your iPhone or hopefully because Clean, Separate, Cook, Chill is now stuck in your head, FSIS is trying get the word out on safe food handling. We’ll continue to keep the meat heading to the supermarket and restaurants safe and wholesome; however, from there, we need your help.

Young mothers prove powerful force in food safety debate
Source :
By Cami Ryan, Sarah Schultz (Mar 20, 2014)
In our battle to mitigate misinformation about agriculture and food production, we need to pay attention to an important new demographic: the “mommy bloggers” and their readers.
More than four million young, educated, chatty, technology savvy American mothers are actively blogging about parenting or turn to blogs and other social media platforms for advice.
This group is also 64 percent more likely to donate to an environmental organization and 88 percent more likely to pay more for products and services that are perceived to be eco-friendly, according to Scarborough Research.
Moms who blog have a great deal of power and influence. They have become important marketing partners, spreading the word about ideas, products and services to the millions of other moms who are online.
Moms who blog are also more likely to make other moms feel guilty about their food and parenting choices.
Mommy blogger campaigns can be damaging in the world of agriculture and food production if they incite unnecessary fear in parents by leading them to believe they are harming their families by feeding them genetically modified foods, beef treated with hormones and antibiotics and other conventionally produced food.
There is significant market pressure for parents to fit their buying and consumption decisions neatly under the halo of all that is “natural” and “organic.” It is a shame, though, because there is no evidence to suggest that organically produced food is any safer or healthier than food produced through other production methods.
Mommy bloggers, and parents in general, need to be our target audience.
Too often, agricultural and food production practices are demonized in parenting circles, and there is a great need for education and agricultural advocacy on these topics.
Rural mommy bloggers can be our greatest allies in this. They can ensure that information about agriculture, production methods and food safety is being accurately presented by using a positive voice, being open to respectful dialogue and sharing their stories.
Agricultural organizations and advocacy groups can also benefit from the unique role that mommy bloggers play. They can develop brand ambassadorship programs for rural and, perhaps even more importantly, urban mommy bloggers, providing support and tools so that these individuals can spread awareness about the industry through their blogs.
However, the goal for these ambassadorship programs should not be to get your story in front of a mom who blogs. Rather, the goal should be to have your story become part of hers.
Ambassadorship programs are important pieces in the “agvocacy” puzzle as we work to address some of the image problems that the agricultural industry faces.
We are fortunate to be able to raise our children in a part of the world where food — all food, no matter how it is produced — is plentiful, diverse and safe. Those of us who farm and work in agriculture need to reach out and connect across the plate, using available tools as well our own unique voices to counter some of the misinformation.
Cami Ryan is a research consultant and a professional affiliate in the College of Agriculture at the University of Saskatchewan. Sarah Schultz is author of the blog

Ice Cream Recalled Over Listeria Fears
Source :
By Bill Marler (Mar 20, 2014)
Helados La Tapatia, Inc., of Fresno, California, is voluntarily recalling all ice cream products, popsicles, fruit bars/cups and bolis due to a possible health risk from Listeria monocytogenes. Helados La Tapatia, Inc., is coordinating closely with regulatory officials.
Listeria monocytogenes is an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.
The products were distributed in Arizona, California, Nevada, Washington, Guam and Canada in retail stores. The products are sold under the brand names of Helados La Tapatia and Icesations.
No illnesses have been reported to date. The recall was the result of a routine inspection program by the U.S. FDA which revealed the presence of the bacteria on certain food processing equipment.

Why are Restaurants excluded from FSIS Retail Disclosure in a Recall?
Source :
By Bill Marler (Mar 19, 2014)
Food Safety News will report in the morning that the retail list for the Rancho Feeding Corporation recall of nearly 9,000,000 pounds of meat is one of the longest ever, with more than 5,800 stores.
However, what is truly stunning is the report that a Bush administration decision (continued under the Obama administration) thwarts transparency in where recalled product was ultimately sold and consumed.  According to Food Safety News, it turns out that restaurants that make direct purchases from establishments involved in the recall are excluded from the retail recall list.
According to Food Safety News, Dr. Richard Raymond, USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety during President George W. Bush’s second term, was head of FSIS when the agency began releasing retail recall lists. Raymond said that when he sent the regulation permitting FSIS to issue retail lists over to the Office of Management and Budget for its approval, restaurants were dropped.
Who else received Rancho Feeding Corporation’s recalled meat?  Why are restaurants excluded?  What other establishments are excluded?  The School Lunch Program?  Hospitals?
Looking back over the last several years of recalls, how often were the names of restaurants and others excluded from publication?

Key drives food safety message in China
Source : 
By (Mar 19, 2014)
Prime Minister John Key has hammered home the food safety message during his visit to Beijing's China Agricultural University.
In a speech at the university today, Mr Key has repeated assurances that New Zealand has high food safety standards and consumers can have confidence in Kiwi products.
The prime minister is in China to allay the concerns of Chinese political leaders and consumers after last year's Fonterra whey protein contamination scare.
"New Zealand's food safety laws are based on a central principle of New Zealand's government - transparency, which means being open about issues and concerns," Mr Key said.
"This is why we act quickly to communicate potential food safety issues with consumers domestically and overseas, even before we know for sure there's a problem.
"To ensure our food safety system remains safe and trusted, we are always looking for areas where we can improve."
Mr Key said when an issue is identified, it's investigated and improvements are made, and all this is done so openly.
"New Zealand recognises that consumer health and safety - both in New Zealand and overseas - should always be the paramount concern when regulating food."
While in China, Mr Key will also have a number of one-on-one television interviews with Chinese media about the Fonterra scare.

Dead pigs in river put food safety in question
Source : 
By AFP (Mar 19, 2014)
BEIJING—Chinese authorities have found 157 dead pigs in a river, state media said Wednesday, underscoring the country’s food safety problems a year after 16,000 carcasses were discovered in Shanghai’s main waterway.
The dead porkers were recovered from the Gan river in Jiangxi, which supplies drinking water to the provincial capital Nanchang, the official news agency Xinhua said.
Tests showed that the tap water remains safe for drinking, it said, citing Nanchang authorities.
The Gan is a tributary of the Yangtze, one of China’s main waterways.
“Another 20 pigs have been fished out of the Gan River, for a total of 157,” state broadcaster CCTV said on an account on Sina Weibo, a Chinese version of Twitter.
Photos posted by CCTV showed staff in white clothing and face masks inspecting carcasses lined up on a riverbank.
Ear tags indicated the animals came from Zhangshu, which is part of Yichun city in the central Chinese province, CCTV said, citing Jiangxi’s agriculture department.
An official with the Yichun agriculture bureau surnamed Zhao told AFP it was unclear where the pigs originated, while Zhangshu authorities could not immediately be reached.

E-Cigarettes Poisonings Increasing Among Children
Source :
By Linda Larsen (Mar 18, 2014)
The Minnesota Department of Health has stated that the Minnesota Poison Control System saw “more than 10 times as many reports of children and teens being poisoned by e-cigarette juice in 2013 compared to 2012.” E-cigarette juice is the liquid used in tobacco vaporizers. Children sometimes mistake them as candy, and they may contain fatal levels of nicotine. Some of the products come in flavors such as bubble gum, cotton candy, and grape.
There were 5 reports of e-cigarette related poisonings in those under the age of 20 in 2012, but that number jumped to 50 in 2013. The poisonings include e-juice being swallowed, inhaled, in contact with the eyes, or absorbed through the skin.
Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger said in a statement, “Fortunately, none of the poisonings hospitalized or seriously injured children in 2013. But given the rise in poisonings, we really want parents to know that this liquid nicotine can pose a fatal risk and that they should store it out of the reach of children.” There is no state or federal law that requires child-resistant packaging or any label on the product listing ingredients.
The symptoms of nicotine poisoning include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, and difficulty breathing. A fatal dose of nicotine for an adult is between 50 and 60 milligrams; a fatal dose for children is less. E-juice containers contain 18 mg to 24 mg per vial.
Some of the calls to the poison center were for toddles and infants less than 2 years old. Others were for teenagers who had been using e-cigarettes. Stacey Bangh, Clinical Supervisor at the Hennepin Regional Poison Center said, “we think of concentrated nicotine as a very serious poison, equivalent to dangerous prescription drugs. Given this rate of increase, it’s not a matter of if a child will be harmed by these products, but when.”

In produce, food safety starts at the top
Source :
By Curt Prendergast (March 18, 2014)
A Rio Rico produce distributor found itself under harsh scrutiny in April 2013 after the firm allegedly imported salmonella-contaminated cucumbers that infected 73 people in 18 states.
This is the nightmare scenario for produce distributors, and one a panel of experts tried to help distributors avoid during the America Trades Produce conference in Tubac last Wednesday.
While other food industries such as meatpacking have more than a century of food safety experience, the produce industry only began widespread programs in the late 1990s, said Walter Ram, vice president of food safety at the Giumarra Companies, a produce distributor with divisions throughout the country, including one in Rio Rico.
Produce companies used to consider fruits and vegetable as “a product,” he said.
“The quantum shift for us to change and get a real culture of food safety means that we need to change that outlook and realize that we’re producing food,” he said.
An effective food safety program should start with the head of the company, Ram said.
“When it comes from the top, everybody has to listen,” he said, adding the higher-ups at the company should explain the benefits of food safety and the potential liabilities of a lack thereof.
In addition, food safety is “everybody’s job,” he said. “One weak link can be disastrous for a whole company.”
Ram’s point was driven home by Martin Ley, current president of Nogales-based Fresh Evolution and former vice president of Del Campo Supreme, also based in Nogales.
In a colorful comparison, he described food safety programs as a plate of bacon and eggs. While the employees (hens) contribute (eggs), the head of the organization (pig) must be fully committed (bacon) to food safety.
Ley outlined several outbreaks in the past few years, which he called “transforming industry events,” such as the fatal outbreak of listeria from a farm in Colorado in September, an outbreak of salmonella in mangos in Mexico in 2012, another outbreak of listeria in melons from Colorado in 2011, and salmonella found in papayas in Mexico in 2011.
In order to avoid such outbreaks, companies must focus members of their workforce on food safety, he said.
“It’s a continuous program of education,” he said. In some cases, companies have gone so far as to put the photos of packers’ faces on the packages they handled.
Juan Reyes, director of Potosi Greenhouses in the Villa de Reyes valley near Guanajuato, Mexico, described how outbreaks should be managed.
“The best way to attack the problem is reducing risk through a coordinated approach,” he said.
Outbreaks must be met with an immediate response from different parts of the culpable company and the government, as well as public advisories warning consumers of the risk, Reyes said.

Horse meat scandal expert warns budget cuts could compromise food safety
Source :
By Will Green (Mar 18, 2014)
The expert investigating the horse meat scandal has warned that budget cuts to the Trading Standards service must not compromise food safety “to such a point that people start to die”.
Professor Chris Elliott, of the Institute for Global Food Security, commented on claims made in a Channel 4 Dispatches programme that the service faces cuts of 40 per cent which could lead to a reduction in the number of Trading Standards officers from 3,000 in 2009 to around 1,900 in 2015.
The programme – shown on Monday and entitled Food: What’s Really In Your Trolley? – also claimed the number of public food testing laboratories had fallen from 15 to 11 in the past three years.
Elliott told the programme: “What we have to be careful of is that the budget cutting gets to a point where the integrity of our supply chains, the safety of the food that people eat, gets compromised to such a point that people start to die. I certainly hope that it doesn’t happen and all the indications are at the minute that the food industry is stepping up to the mark. They’re doing more checking and testing; but the food industry can’t do it on their own. What we need are strong regulators and well-resourced regulators.”
Elliott produced an interim report into the horse meat scandal in December, in which he called for standardised food testing backed by a “sustainable public sector laboratory system”.
Andy Foster, operations and policy director at the Trading Standards Institute, told the programme: “You take money out of sampling, you take money out of inspection, you take money out of the consumer protection system. You will get increased levels of fraudulent activity and you make the consumer protection regime that’s designed to deal with it much more impotent – and that’s a big concern. When you have some authorities – like some in London – operating on one Trading Standards officer, how on earth can they possibly deal with all their demands from fraudulent activity?”
The Food Standards Agency said its figures showed a 23 per cent drop in officers carrying out food safety enforcement between 2009 and 2012 and there were 17 labs carrying out food testing if those with multiple sites were taken into consideration. It said 84,000 food safety, composition and authenticity tests were carried out during 2012/13 and local authorities had received an extra £2.2 million this year to support testing.
“Consumer protection is the key priority for the FSA and local authorities, and enforcement officers are working smarter to target areas most likely to be at risk,” a spokesman said.
“We are also developing a new intelligence hub to better identify, and prevent, threats to food safety and integrity, and we will continue to work closely with the food industry, local authorities and our counterparts in Europe to ensure that the consumer is protected.”

Lawmakers oppose USDA change in poultry inspections: food safety roundup
Source :
By Lynne Terry (Mar 18, 2014)
Nearly 70 House members have urged Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to abandon plans to overhaul the nation’s poultry inspection system with a slate of new regulations.
They argue that plans to remove some federal inspectors from turkey and chicken slaughterhouses while allowing the industry to speed up production lines would threaten the safety of employees and the nation’s food supply, according to a story in
The changes, part of the USDA's crackdown on salmonella, has drawn vociferous criticism from consumer advocates as well who say the change will mark a step back, not forward.
Under current rules, a federal inspector is required for every 35 birds that cross the slaughter line each minute. The total number of birds allowed to pass through is capped at 140 per minute, requiring four federal inspectors.
The draft regulations now in the pipeline would require just one federal inspector on the line, with other inspection responsibilities falling to plant employees. At the same time, speeds would be allowed to increase so that as many as 175 birds could pass by every minute.
That's it for now. Keep your appetite and eat safely.

Swiss Study Finds Raw Chicken in Hospitals has E. coli
Source :
By Linda Larsen (Mar 17, 2014)
A study published in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, a publication of the Society for Healthcare epidemiology of America, found that more than 80% of raw chicken that enters the hospital food supply is contaminated with E. coli bacteria. The study tested raw chicken delivered to the central hospital kitchen at the University Hospital of Geneva in Switzerland.
The bacteria is a new antibiotic resistant form called extended-spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL) that produces E. coli. Dr. Andrew Stewardson, the lead author of the study said in a statement, “while a high proportion of chicken contaminated by antibiotic resistant E. coli  is a significant concern, robust food safety measures taken by hospital kitchen staff are able to prevent the spread of these pathogens and minimize risk to food handlers, staff, and patients.”
But the problem is that no system is perfect. One mistake could potentially cause a serious outbreak among patients who are already vulnerable to foodborne illness because of compromised immune systems or chronic and acute disease.
The study also found that six of the 93 food workers were ESBL carriers. The researchers concluded that industrial risk management strategies in the hospital kitchen “appear sufficient to minimize risk to food handlers, hospital staff, and patients.” But these conclusions will not apply to ordinary consumer kitchens, where food safety precautions are more often applied haphazardly.
The lesson? Handle all raw meats as if they were contaminated. Do not cross-contaminate. Sanitize all utensils and surfaces that come into contact with raw meat. And wash your hands frequently before, during, and after food preparation.

Lawmakers: Poultry regs threaten food safety
Source :
By Benjamin Goad (Mar 17, 2014)
Nearly 70 House members on Monday implored Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to abandon plans to overhaul the nation’s poultry inspection system with a slate of new regulations.
The lawmakers argue that plans to remove some federal inspectors from turkey and chicken slaughterhouses while allowing the industry to speed up production lines would threaten the safety of employees and the nation’s food supply.
“While we strongly support modernizing our food safety system and making it more efficient, modernization should not occur at the expense of public health, worker safety, or animal welfare,” 68 House members said in a letter to Vilsack.
Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Jim Moran (D-Va), Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) and Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) led the effort.
President Obama’s 2015 budget, unveiled earlier this month, contains millions of dollars worth of projected savings attributed directly to the regulations now under consideration at the Agriculture Department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.
Vilsack touted the action during the department’s budget rollout. An estimated $7.5 billion of $9 billion in proposed cuts to the FSIS budget is attributed to the forthcoming rule.
“So there's been an aggressive effort focused on this,” Vilsack told reporters. “The savings that's in this budget is a result of a proposal to modernize poultry inspection, which has not really changed much in the last 60 years. I think we know a lot more about where pathogens attach, what pathogens are most of concern, and how we might be able to improve the inspection process, while at the same time ... saving money.”
Under current rules, a federal inspector is required for every 35 birds that cross the slaughter line each minute. The total number of birds allowed to pass through is capped at 140 per minute, requiring four federal inspectors.
The draft regulations now in the pipeline would require just one federal inspector on the line, with other inspection responsibilities falling to plant employees. At the same time, speeds would be allowed to increase so that as many as 175 birds could pass by every minute.
The proposal, backed by industry groups including the National Chicken Council, is intended to move the focus of federal resources away from production lines in favor of more emphasis on off-line sampling for pathogenic microorganisms in poultry bound for commerce.
First proposed in 2012, the regulations are based on 15-year-old pilot programs at selected plants around the country. A 2013 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report concluded that that the USDA “has not thoroughly evaluated the performance of each of the pilot projects over time even though the agency stated it would do so when it announced the pilot projects.”
Critics say the proposed rule “appears poised to generate even more ambiguous data” because it would not impose standards for microbial testing, as part of the advertised shift toward a more scientific approach. In particular, there would be no system-wide testing for salmonella and campylobacter, the lawmakers argued.
“FSIS’s proposal thus hobbles what should be a fundamental goal of modernization — to create a system that tracks rates of contamination and facilitates continuous improvement in the poultry industry to decrease those rates throughout the system,” they wrote to Vilsack.  Tags: Tom Vilsack, Food Safety and Inspection Service, Meat industry, Slaughterhouse, United States Department of Agriculture

Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus Spreads to AZ
Source :
By Carla Gillespie (Mar 17, 2014)
Arizona has become the 27th state to report confirmed cases of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus (PEDv) in pig herds. The highly contagious disease has killed more than 4 million U.S. pigs since 2013.
Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus, a highly contagious and deadly pig disease has affected more than half of all states.
PEDv, which does not affect humans and is not a food safety risk,  kills pigs through dehydration. More than 80 percent of piglets that contract the virus die.
The National Pork Board says new funds have been earmarked for research to halt the spread of the disease.  Those funds include $650,000  from the Pork Checkoff, a fund created by producers who contribute $0.40 contribution for every $100 of pork sold; and $500,000 through an new agreement with Genome Alberta as the virus is also affecting herds in Canada.
“This has become one of the most serious and devastating diseases our pig farmers have faced in decades,” said Karen Richter, a Minnesota producer who is president of the National Pork Board. “While it has absolutely no impact on food safety, it has clear implications for the pork industry in terms of supplying pork to consumers. Our No. 1 priority is to address PEDv.”




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