Meat industry has made great food safety progress

by Editor
Friday, May 29, 2009

The meat and poultry industry has made great food safety progress in recent years and continues to strive to improve, according to AMI Executive Vice President James Hodges.

Hodges testified before the Canadian House of Commons Subcommittee on Food Safety of the Standing Committee of Agriculture and Agri-Food. The subcommittee was formed to review food safety programmes following a listeriosis outbreak in Canada last year.

Hodges told the Subcommittee that illnesses associated with meat and poultry consumption have declined, with nearly one billion meals being consumed each day in the United States without incident.

When it comes to oversight, Hodges said that the meat and poultry industry supports and incorporates a strong federal inspection system. Approximately 8,000 employees of USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) inspect approximately 6,300 domestic meat and poultry operations and an additional 2,000 federal employees provide supervision and support services, at a total cost of more than one billion dollars.

Hodges also noted that the meat and poultry industry has been a strong advocate of a preventative approach and in fact petitioned USDA to mandate Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP ) plans in and meat and poultry plants. That requirement took effect a decade ago and has helped enhance meat and poultry safety.

Specifically, U.S. government data show a decline in pathogen prevalence on meat and poultry products. Since 2000, the industry has reduced the prevalence of E. coli O157:H7 in ground beef by 45% to less than one-half percent. The prevalence of Listeria monocytogenes in ready-to-eat meat and poultry products has been reduced by 74% to less than 0.4%. The Center for Disease Control has reported by similar progress in reducing foodborne illnesses. Since 2000, illnesses caused by E. coli O157:H7 are down by 40% and listeriosis is down by 10%.

Hodges also offered a number of suggestions to further improve food safety, e.g. science and scientific facts should be the foundation for establishing a food safety system that has public health protection as its goal, Government has the responsibility to set food safety standards and industry has a responsibility to produce safe food that meet or exceed government food safety standards.