Remarks prepared for delivery by Dr. Richard Raymond, Under Secretary for Food Safety, to the
110th AFDO Annual Conference, June 20, 2006, in Albany, New York..
Note: Slides are available in an attached PDF document (725kb); individual
pages are linked within the text.
Good morning. I appreciate this opportunity to brief you on
the important work that USDA's Office of Food Safety is doing
to help protect the U.S. food supply.
AFDO and its dedicated membership are valued partners, and
I'm looking forward to this important relationship growing stronger.
Amazingly, this is AFDO's 110th Annual Conference. Some of you
might not know that USDA is also celebrating an important milestone.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the
Federal Meat Inspection Act, which was a watershed event in
the history of food safety and public health in the United States.
In 1906, only 163 establishments were federally inspected.
Today we inspect nearly 6,000. However, the scope of our activities
is not the only thing that has changed since then. USDA's approach
to food safety has also greatly evolved since 1906.
It has grown from a command-and-control regulatory agency using
simple organoleptic inspection into a public health agency that
prides itself on preventing illnesses through sound science
and intensive public health outreach and education campaigns.
This transition was made possible in part due to our close
cooperative partnerships with local and state government agencies,
industry and consumers. These relationships will only become
more important as we move into the next 100 years.
Office of Food Safety Overview
First, a very brief historical view of USDA and FSIS. As the Under Secretary for Food Safety, I oversee the Food Safety and Inspection Service, which carries out USDA's food safety regulatory program, as well as its public health outreach and education activities.
Our mission is to ensure the safety and wholesomeness of the nation's commercial supply of meat, poultry and egg products and to protect that supply from both unintentional and intentional acts of contamination. It doesn't matter if those products are imported to, or exported from, the United States.
My position also means that I head up the U.S. delegation to the Codex Alimentarius Commission, the international body for food safety standards.
FSIS has more than 10,000 employees, approximately 7,700 of
whom are inspection and veterinary personnel present daily in
nearly 6,000 meat, poultry and egg product processing plants
throughout the United States.
The products they inspect represent more than one-third of
all consumer spending on food in the United States and about
40 percent of all domestic food production.
As USDA's premiere public health agency, FSIS is no longer focused
only on the inspection of processing plants and slaughter houses.
It's dedicated to fostering safer food handling habits among
all types of food handlers, and developing science-based policies
to improve our food safety and defense systems.
Food Safety Successes
Not only have cooperative partnerships with local, state and
federal government agencies, industry and consumer groups been
essential in FSIS' transformation into USDA's premier public
health agency, but they have also been instrumental in the significant
food safety and public health successes we have seen in the
past few years.
I firmly believe the best indicators of these successes are
those that directly relate to pathogen reduction and public
health outcomes. Cal Dooly probably mentioned these statistics
yesterday, but they are so important in where we are going that
they bear repeating.
In 2005, the percentage of samples that tested positive for
E. coli O157:H7 was 0.173 percent. You will see in
an upcoming slide that the dramatic declines in E. coli
product testing positive went hand-in-hand with equally dramatic
drops in human illnesses caused by E. coli O157:H7
during that same period of time.
The percentage of Lm positive test results was 0.64
percent in 2005. But we have changed our focus to be more risk
based — more testing of high risk products. [Changed baseline
and changed graphs.]
The recent release of the 2005 data on the Incidence of Infection
with Pathogens Transmitted Commonly through Food by the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) clearly shows that
the reductions in human illness from foodborne pathogens witnessed
during the past few years have been dramatic.
You can see in the following graphs that the Healthy People
2010 national objectives are close to being met for E. coli
O157:H7 – 24% to, Listeria monocytogenes – 32% and
Campylobacter – 30%.
10) | (SLIDE
11) | (SLIDE
That is 30% fewer people got sick, missed work, saw a doctor,
whatever, from these three pathogens that are in the top five.
Even though there is no current national objective for Yersinia,
I would like to point out that we have also seen a 49 percent
decline in illnesses associated with it.
As you can see, together, we are protecting public health through
a safer food supply. But we must continue to make improvements
to our existing strong system.
What's New in Food Safety?
USDA's Office of Food Safety understands that one of our most
effective tools in protecting public health is readily available,
accurate information; especially when that information empowers
individuals to take an active role in protecting the health
and well-being of themselves and their families.
FSIS' recent proposed rule for the agency to provide the public
with a list of retail consignees during a meat and poultry recall,
in addition to the critical information currently released by
FSIS, is built on this basic understanding.
The proposed rule strengthens the efficiency and effectiveness
of our current recall procedures by quickly providing consumers,
as well as local and state agencies, with additional information
that empowers them to protect themselves, their families and
We are also working hard to prevent foodborne illnesses from
occurring in the first place.
Salmonella is the number one cause of foodborne illness
— 14.4/100,000 — 42,000 per year — reported only 500 deaths
— all sources, not just poultry.
The poultry industry finds itself at a crossroad when it comes
to the prevalence of Salmonella in the products it
produces. According to our sampling data, the number of product
samples testing positive for Salmonella has been on
the rise in several poultry categories over the past few years,
specifically in young chicken (or broiler) carcasses – 16 %.
That's why we recently announced an initiative to reduce Salmonella
in meat and poultry products. This risk-based initiative incorporates
11 steps, including increased sampling in plants where it's
most needed and quarterly publication of nationwide Salmonella
data by product class. Carrot and stick.
The specifics of this important 11-step plan can be found on
FSIS' Web site at www.fsis.usda.gov. Preliminary results are
Another initiative that I want to talk about is our efforts
to prepare the U.S. meat and poultry industry for the realities
of the next 100 years by laying the foundation now for a more
robust risk-based inspection system.
Many people wrongly believe that the government is incapable
of taking proactive steps to find solutions to problems before
they occur. Coming from a public health background, I know that
it's possible. It's just not always easy. It is called, in the
public health world, going upstream, but that is another speech.
I want to focus our time and valuable resources on prevention,
rather than on response for a common sense, cost-effective public
health strategy that best serves the American consumer by preventing
human illness, not recalling product after an outbreak has occurred
and been investigated for six months.
Our current system, while strong, is not suited to the future
realities of food safety and public health, and we'll need the
ability to anticipate and quickly respond to food safety challenges
before they negatively affect public health. Enhanced risk-based
systems offer us this ability.
Remember, FSIS already uses a risk-based approach to food safety.
Our goal is to further enhance and strengthen that system so
that we're prepared for the food safety challenges of the next
We have already taken measured steps toward this important goal.
Our first step along this path toward a risk-based system was
to require all meat and poultry establishments under our jurisdiction
to develop implement and maintain HACCP systems.
The next step was to start the HIMP pilot program, designed
to modernize on-line slaughter inspection. Through HIMP, information
on product defects is gathered in real-time, helping plants
make immediate corrections when problems occur in their processes.
The third step was the Listeria monocytogenes risk
assessment released in 2003, which provided important data that
enabled FSIS to design a final Lm rule.
The fourth step, the Salmonella program announced
in February 2006, will put resources where the risks are highest.
We are moving toward a more robust risk-based system by developing
an objective science-based measure that can meaningfully quantify
how well potential risks are being controlled in FSIS-inspected
We will couple this with an inherent product risk to develop
an algorithm that will tell us the risk for plant and product
and allow us to concentrate resource, appropriately.
It would only affect those establishments that process meat
and poultry products or have combined slaughter and processing
operations. Operations in plants that only slaughter animals
will not be affected.
This isn't about increasing or decreasing the resources we
dedicate to inspection. It's about how best to use currently
available inspection-related data and resources to improve the
effectiveness of our hard working inspection program personnel.
This will allow them to better protect consumers.
We certainly have our own ideas about what should be measured
and how. For example, we believe that any enhanced measurement
of establishment risk control should differentiate between NRs
that pose significant threats to food safety and those that
do not. [Give speeding ticket analogy]
But the final product will be the result of input from employees,
consumer groups, industry and all of our other food safety stakeholders.
Resolve Inc., a neutral third party selected by FSIS, will work
in the coming months to gather and organize the wide range of
views concerning what needs to be included that are held among
industry, consumers and our employees.
We need all of our food safety partners to be involved in this
process, and willing to express their views about the most appropriate
objective measures of an establishment's ability to control
The idea of risk-based systems has been around for a long time,
and attempts at change have sometimes failed — often because
some group was left out of the discussions. In the process,
misconceptions have formed about what a more robust risk-based
system is going to mean for our employees, the industry and
It's natural for people to have concerns. We're looking at
taking a dramatic step forward in food safety and public health.
However, we must make sure that these misconceptions and concerns
are addressed openly and publicly.
We all know that we can save lives with sensible science-based
policies, and together I know we'll do just that.
Small and Very Small Plant Outreach
To move forward with a more robust risk-based inspection system,
we need to ensure that every establishment inspected by FSIS
is using a HACCP plan designed to meet the demands and challenges
of the 21st century.
Perhaps in the late 90's, HACCP was being made a requirement
for all plants, we did not realize that small and very small
plants have unique needs when it comes to full-scale HACCP compliance
and that they do not have as many resources as large plants.
I've made it an absolute priority for us to increase communication
between FSIS and small and very small plants so that we can
identify and respond to their needs faster and more efficiently
with regard to full-scale implementation of their HACCP plans.
Some people might be asking, "Why do we need to focus on small
and very small plants?" The answer is simple. There's a heck
of a lot of them and people are consuming their products.
Any comprehensive effort to improve the implementation of HACCP
plans in inspected establishments cannot leave out over 90 percent
of the federally inspected establishments.
When it comes to improved HACCP implementation among small and
very small plants, the International HACCP Alliance identified
six key needs, which you can see on this slide, that needed
to be addressed. Constituent messages and educational opportunities
for joint training and industry inspection. Questions and answers
are available on the FSIS' Web site.
FSIS' recently unveiled, "Strategic Implementation plan
for Strengthening Small and Very Small Plant Outreach,"
outlines seven strategies that the agency will use to addresses
the unique needs of small and very small plants.
They form the foundation of our national effort to ensure that
all federally inspected establishments have the training and
resources necessary to produce the safest food possible in the
21st century, no matter the size of the plant or type of product
Improved assistance for food safety and defense will include
one-stop customer service. There will be better access to technical
resources including scientific validation materials, and easier
access to education and training efforts.
Partnerships with other entities such as extension, state inspection
programs, rural development will be expanded and better leveraged.
Finally, FSIS will continue to assess the needs of small and
very small plants and the effectiveness of agency programs designed
to assist them.
Our new approach is focused on ensuring that they can easily
access accurate and consistent answers to their questions, whether
they deal with HACCP compliance, food safety or food defense
The biggest change, however, is unwritten. I'm reminded of the
saying you see often on police cars. "We are here to protect
and serve." Instead for FSIS it's "We are here to regulate,
We're focused on providing more educational resources and workshop
opportunities to small and very small plants on a variety of
important subjects — concentrating on helping the plant employee
who wants to participate but has too many demands on his time.
We'll be working with Gale Buchanan, the Under Secretary for
Research, Education and Economics, on ways to reenergize extension
programs and expand the reach of our educational courses.
It's all part of our commitment to provide small and very small
plants with numerous options designed to make it easy to receive
the training they want. These include Web casts and more night
and weekend workshops, as well as making sure that all of our
workshops are available on DVD and CD-ROM. The goal is to provide
them with the ability to learn the most up-to-date information
at the time and place they choose.
We must have safe products, no matter the size of the plant
or what they produce. A consumer eating a steak at a restaurant
or a hamburger at a barbecue doesn't know if that product came from
a large or small or very small plant — nor should it matter.
However, improving the implementation of HACCP plans is not
just a matter of education. It's also a rural economic development
That's why we'll also be working with Rural Development Under
Secretary Thomas Dorr to distribute important information to
owners concerning loans and grants available to small and very
These loans and grants can provide needed money that plants
can use to make any necessary improvements called for in their
HACCP plans. NRs are often written for shortcomings in a plant's
physical environment and that's why we need to help small, rural
establishments not only move their HACCP plans, but also their
physical environments into the 21st century.
Many of you here today come from states that have their own
meat and poultry inspection systems. You work with small and
very small plants every day, and I believe that our insights
and experiences are directly applicable to your own work.
Together we can help small and very small plants move into
the 21st century of food safety.
Coming from state government, I realize and truly value the
important role states serve every day in our nation's food safety
and public health infrastructure. Increased coordination and
cooperation will be critical to all of our future food safety
activities — not just outreach efforts. But to make the most
out of these cooperative opportunities, we need to have a firm
understanding of their capabilities.
25) That's why a couple of years ago, we began new procedures
for comprehensive reviews of state meat and poultry inspection
Out of the 20 completed on-site reviews, the agency has determined
that 17 states have inspection systems that are "at least equal
to" federal inspection. The other three received a deferred
determination, and those states have submitted corrective action
plans which are currently being reviewed.
An additional four on-site reviews have been conducted and
the agency hopes to have those reports' final determinations
issued shortly. The four remaining on-site reviews should be
completed by August. After that a final report will be released
no later than January 2007.
This brings me to the issue of interstate shipment of state-inspected
meat, poultry and egg products. I know this is an important
issue to many of you. USDA hasn't taken a position at this point.
And you should not expect a decision until after all the on-site
reviews and appropriate follow-ups have been completed. We don't
intend to act without first carefully examining the capabilities
of the states' current inspection systems.
In the meantime, we'll continue to work on ways to improve
federal and state coordination to further enhance food safety
and public health protection.
Improved coordination will be especially important as USDA continues
to prepare for a possible outbreak of avian influenza (AI).
27) While the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza virus
has not been detected in the United States, it's likely we'll
see it here eventually.
It's because of this reality that President Bush's National
Strategy for Pandemic Influenza is focused on mobilizing the
Government's wide-ranging expertise and resources. The Administration's
goal is to ensure that all appropriate preparations are being
made for the potential spread of the H5N1 disease to the United
USDA is playing many important roles in this effort. The Department's
four-part approach to combating avian influenza includes limiting
the spread of the virus overseas through international outreach.
Second, we're also educating the American public through a
proactive campaign to inform without causing alarm. Third is
USDA's aggressive surveillance program, which includes wild
birds, commercial poultry, live bird markets and backyard flocks.
The fourth aspect of our efforts is to execute our response
plan. As some of you might know, USDA has a long and successful
history of dealing with highly pathogenic avian influenza.
High path AI has been detected three times in the United States
since the 1920s. During the most recent outbreak — in 2004 —
USDA worked with state, local and industry officials to quickly
identify contain and eradicate the source. This has given us
first-hand experience of how to prepare for and combat new outbreaks,
here and abroad. We just have never had to do it under the intense
media scrutiny we are now experiencing.
Even as we make domestic preparations, USDA will continue to
work with the international community affected by the highly
pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza virus. Any help that we can
offer countries in containing this virus could help to protect
both animal and human health in the United States and abroad.
There are a few things to remember that I believe are central
to this discussion.
First, detection in birds does not signal the start of a human
pandemic. This virus is not easily transmitted from person to
person. The human illnesses that we've seen overseas have, for
the most part, resulted from direct contact with sick or dead
Second, even if the virus reaches a commercial poultry operation,
there's no reason for consumers to be concerned about eating
poultry. At federally and state-inspected plants, birds are
inspected for signs of infection or diseases to ensure only
wholesome birds are given the mark of inspection.
In addition, USDA has worked with industry to develop a further
layer of food safety protection. It's agreed that if highly
pathogenic avian influenza is suspected in a commercial flock,
USDA will test poultry meat originating from the area to rule
out the presence of the avian influenza virus.
Testing will be conducted utilizing new methodology and procedures
developed by USDA allowing results to be obtained in less than
five hours. Product will be voluntarily held by industry until
the safety of the product is confirmed.
This is a good example of how the government can work with
industry to ensure the safety of the U.S. food supply. We've
developed a voluntary system in close cooperation with industry
that not only protects public health, but also helps to protect
the poultry industry.
In the end, consumers have the power to protect themselves
from avian influenza and other foodborne illnesses by properly
preparing and cooking poultry. Properly prepared poultry is
safe to eat — it's as simple as that.
Our FSIS sermon does not change from Salmonella to
AI. It remains: wash your hands and cooking surfaces frequently;
keep raw food and cooked food separate; cook poultry to at least
165 degrees Fahrenheit; and chill leftovers promptly.
A minimum internal temperature of 165° F in poultry meat will
kill any viruses or bacteria that might be present. So it's
important to always use a food thermometer to make sure you've
cooked poultry to that safe temperature of 165° F.
USDA established this single, easy to remember temperature
and worked with the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration
to be certain the federal government's message is consistent.
For more in-depth information on USDA's AI initiatives, I recommend
you visit and bookmark www.usda.gov/birdflu.
Before I close, I want to thank AFDO and its membership again
for all of its efforts to make our food supply the safest in
the world. We have a strong system in place, and that is due
in part to the work AFDO does every day.
30) Did you know that 100 years ago, one in five coffins
contained a child under five years old? Today that number is
only one in 100 coffins. That's an amazing accomplishment that's
had a profound impact on our society and everyone in this room.
That is why the life expectancy has gone from 45 years of age
in 1900 to 75 years of age in 2000 — kids survive. They die
from enteritis, dysentery, small pox, pneumonia, cholera and
Clean water, sewage, vaccines, antibiotics — AND a safe food
supply have played important roles in this amazing phenomenon.
I'm looking forward to seeing future accomplishments brought
about by enhancing the public health system that our communication,
cooperation and collaboration will create in the coming years.
31) The bottom line is that we all have the same objectives
— safe food and healthy people. We must never lose sight of
these common goals, because it is on these shared beliefs that
we will build and strengthen the cooperative relationships that
will be so critical to our continued success.
Thank you again for your time and I hope everyone enjoys the
rest of the conference.