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Prevention is U.S. government’s goal

The U.S. government’s new prevention-based measures aim to keep consumers safe from foodborne bacteria


Washington – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has come out with a series of prevention-based policy measures to better protect consumers from illnesses caused by foodborne bacteria in meat and poultry products.

The USDA made the announcement last week.

The aim of the measures is to improve the ability of both food processing plants and the USDA to trace contaminated food materials in the supply chain, to act against contaminated products sooner, and to establish the effectiveness of food safety systems.

The policy measures include:

• the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) plans to implement new trace-back measures in order to control pathogens earlier and prevent them from triggering foodborne illnesses and outbreaks.
FSIS is proposing to launch traceback investigations earlier and identify additional potentially contaminated product when the agency finds E. coli O157:H7 through its routine sampling program.
When FSIS receives an indication of contamination through presumptive positive test results for E. coli, the agency will work to identify the supplier of the product and any processors who received contaminated product from the supplier, once confirmation is received.
This proposed change in policy gives FSIS the opportunity to better prevent contaminated product from reaching consumers.

• FSIS is implementing three provisions included in the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008. The new regulations require establishments to prepare and maintain recall procedures, to notify FSIS within 24 hours that a meat or poultry product that could harm consumers has been shipped into commerce, and to document each reassessment of their hazard control and critical control point (HACCP) system food safety plans.

• FSIS is announcing the availability of guidance to plants on the steps that are necessary to establish that their HACCP food safety systems will work as designed to control the food safety hazards that they confront. This process, called validation, enables companies to ensure that their food safety systems are effective for preventing foodborne illness.

In the past two years, FSIS has announced several measures to safeguard the food supply, prevent foodborne illness, and improve consumers’ knowledge about the food they eat.

These initiatives support the three core principles developed by the President’s Food Safety Working Group: prioritizing prevention; strengthening surveillance and enforcement; and improving response and recovery.