Meat plants with food safety risks to be focussed

by Editor
Thursday, March 01, 2007

Meat processors with poor food safety standards will face more frequent inspections under proposals made by a regulatory arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The new – mainly risk-based – system proposed by the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) will target meat and poultry plants with the greatest potential risk to public health.

Plants showing problems over a period of time will also be targeted, while those having a good record will be inspected less frequently.

At first, the FSIS will target the risk-based system at processing plants and later expand it to slaughterhouses.

Processors will be evaluated by the type and volume of product they manufacture. Implementing the rule, the FSIS will consider the number of recalls, non-compliance reports, enforcement actions and other regulatory actions taken against plants.

The FSIS has already experience with the application of a risk-based system. An initiative unveiled in February is an attempt to focus the agency's salmonella testing on plants that show the least success in controlling the pathogen.

One example is the agency's Listeria monocytogenes regulatory sampling program initiated in 2003 which was also a risk-based approach to inspection according to the FSIS. As a result the percentage of regulatory product samples that tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes has fallen by 56% since 2000. In 2005, only 0.64% of regulatory samples taken were positive for this dangerous pathogen.