Remarks prepared for delivery by Dr.
Barbara Masters, Acting Administrator, Food Safety and Inspection
Service, at the American Association of Meat Processors' 65th American
Convention of Meat Processors and Suppliers' Exhibition, July 15,
2004 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Good morning. It is a pleasure to be here. I know as members of
the American Association of Meat Processors (AAMP), your companies
have provided safe and high quality meat and meat products for generations.
Your plants are more than just a business - they are a way of life.
I compliment all of you for taking the time to be here at AAMP's
annual conference to discuss the many issues we face.
The title of this segment of today's agenda is "Can You Survive?"
In light of this question, I want to tell you about another American
industry that is not only surviving but thriving - U.S. winemakers.
I think we all can learn from their success story.
U.S. wineries have only been around for a few hundred years in
comparison to thousand year old vineyards in France and Italy, but
they produce some of the finest wines in the world. Over the past
few decades, science has advanced the noble art of winemaking. Winemakers
resisted the move at first, preferring to follow years of sacred
tradition rather than take advantage of modern innovations. But
soon wineries of all sizes began using basic automation technology
to aid in production-first to automate the crushing and bottling
processes and then to track the movement of the grapes from harvest
through bottling. Today, U.S. wineries are on the leading edge,
employing science and technology to improve the taste and safety
of their product as well as their bottom line.
U.S. wineries, just like meat and poultry processors and slaughterers,
come in all shapes and sizes and are frequently a family business
passed down from generation to generation. As an industry, they
made the decision to embrace science and technology, and it proved
to be very fruitful for them - pun intended. Today U.S. winemakers
are not just winning awards and garnering international acclaim.
Last year alone, U.S. wine exports increased 17 percent in value
to $643 million dollars in winery revenues, and increased 29 percent
in volume to 96 million gallons.
This account shows how winemakers - many of them small businesses
like yourselves - were able to meld a cultural and traditional art
with science and technology to produce not only a superior product
but also to become very profitable. I know many of you are doing
the same, and that you represent many of the leaders in these efforts.
In many cases meat processing has been handed down from generation
to generation and is an art form in its own right. Those of us here
appreciate the tradition and art of this trade, and we want to ensure
that it thrives well into the future.
The path for this success includes accepting and using the latest
science to our advantage. Let's face it, the crux of our challenge
in this industry centers on combating pathogens, many of which have
predated our existence for over two billion years and some that
have yet to emerge. With their long history of survival and adaptability
to changing environments, it is a given that we will continue to
be challenged in containing these harmful bacteria.
However, as pathogens evolve, so does science. By embracing innovation,
we can employ effective counter measures to stay one step ahead
of evolving pathogens to improve food safety while maintaining the
essence and tradition of this art. Just as pathogens are living,
breathing and evolving, we need to view HACCP as a living, breathing
system in its own right. It has to be "alive" and must "evolve"
to work effectively.
As with the U.S. vineyards I mentioned, the melding of science
with the art of your craft is showing significant success in your
industry. I'd like to share with you today some examples of how
government and industry can work together using science in meat
and poultry processing.
FSIS Today: Significant Food Safety Advancements
An effective gauge of how our policies and your practices are working
is looking at how public health is impacted. In April, the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported significant declines
from 1996 to 2003 in illnesses caused by E. coli O157:H7,
Salmonella, Campylobacter and Yersinia.
Specifically to the products you produce and we regulate, illnesses
caused by Salmonella Typhimurium, typically associated
with meat and poultry, decreased by 38%. Most significantly, between
2002 and 2003, illnesses caused by E. coli O157:H7, typically
associated with ground beef, dropped by 36%. That's a one-year reduction!
The CDC attributes the changes in the incidence of these infections
in part to the control measures implemented by government and industry
leaders, enhanced food-safety education efforts, and increased attention
by consumer groups and the media. We are hopeful that if we continue
on our current course, this reduction will not be just for one year,
but will continue from now on until we have achieved the greatest
reduction possible in the illnesses caused by these pathogens.
E. coli O157:H7
E. coli O157:H7 really is a good example of how
our hard work is yielding results. As I just mentioned the CDC data
show public health improvements, but in addition, we are seeing
a significant drop in the percentage of O157:H7 positive regulatory
samples in ground beef as well. In 2003, of the O157:H7 samples
collected and analyzed, there was a 60% reduction in the number
of positive results from 2002. I think we can all take credit for
this success. FSIS required all beef establishments to reassess
their HACCP plans.
Then our scientifically trained personnel conducted the first-ever
comprehensive reviews of the reassessed HACCP plans in over 1700
beef establishments. Sixty two percent of those plants made major
improvements based on their own reassessments, and 60% had added
O157:H7 as a pathogen likely to occur. This is a definite improvement
and another indicator that science-based policies and control are
Let's look at this another way by comparing annual results from
our microbiological testing program for E. coli O157:H7.
- In 2001, our testing program yielded 59 positive results;
- In 2002, there were 55 positive results;
- In 2003, there were 20; and
- So far this year, there have been only seven!
This certainly is a credible testament to the value of teamwork
in preventing foodborne illness.
The effectiveness of using science is also evident
when we look at Listeria monocytogenes (Lm). Late last
year, we released data that showed a one-year, 25 percent drop in
the percentage of positive Lm regulatory samples from the
year before. That is a 70 percent decline compared with years prior
to the implementation of HACCP. We are cautiously optimistic that
this downward trend will continue, due to the regulation issued
last June for establishments producing ready-to-eat products where
Lm is a concern.
As for Salmonella, we issued new instructions for utilizing
the Salmonella performance standards as an indicator for
verifying food safety systems. Under these new procedures, instead
of waiting for two consecutive failures of tests to trigger an in-depth
review of plant SSOP and HACCP plans, reviews are initiated after
any series of tests fails to meet a standard.
This process and other science-based initiatives have played a
significant role in reducing the prevalence of Salmonella
in raw meat and poultry regulatory samples. Salmonella
in raw meat and poultry regulatory samples has dropped substantially
over the past six years and represents a downward trend in positive
results in our regulatory samples.
I'd like to say that although our regulatory data may not represent
the prevalence of these pathogens nationwide, it certainly is indicative
of a downward trend.
These are certainly positive indicators of success; however, science
continues to evolve, as does our common nemesis - the pathogen.
After a thorough assessment last year of our progress, FSIS outlined
initiatives to make sure we continue building on our public health
regulatory model. These steps are described in a new document FSIS
released just yesterday - Fulfilling the Vision: Initiatives
in Protecting Public Health - that describes many of the actions
the agency is currently taking in pursuit of our food safety mission.
This document is currently available on our Web site. I would like
to share with you a few of these initiatives.
For the past year, training has been and will continue to be at
the top of our priority list. We are intensively training a large
segment of our field force in sanitation procedures and HACCP principles
based on the type of products being produced at the establishments
where inspectors are assigned.
We expect to have this segment of our workforce fully trained by
the end of fiscal year 2005. We have also successfully launched
training for newly hired Public Health Veterinarians and training
for newly hired inspectors will start by the end of this fiscal
year. We are also going back four years to train "new hires" to
ensure any employees that did not receive this training are fully
equipped. I could spend my entire time allotment on all of our training
initiatives and encourage you to ask questions or visit our Web site
to learn more.
I know there is a desire for industry to have opportunities to
attend FSIS training. For the past two years, we have offered a
review of FSIS training to industry, through a meeting sponsored
by the International HACCP Alliance. Two years ago, the focus was
on the Consumer Safety Officer training. Last year, the focus was
on the Enforcement, Investigations and Analysis Officer training
and the Food Safety Regulatory Essentials training. Based on the
positive response, we are currently working with the International
HACCP Alliance to offer another such meeting. We do not yet have
the details, but expect that it will take place before the end of
the fiscal year.
Conducting an innovative outreach program to provide all of FSIS'
stakeholders with essential agency information is an important component
of our public health regulatory effort. This includes holding a
variety of public meetings to receive input from all stakeholders
who have an interest in food safety. This effort is important for
both the risk management and risk communication components of the
risk analysis framework. We need the input from industry, consumer
groups, academia and others to help develop our regulations and
further refine our policies and educational programs. We want to
have a genuine dialogue and be as transparent as possible.
As you know, FSIS recently issued its E. coli O157:H7
directive. As we have done with other recent agency initiatives
including Lm and BSE, FSIS is holding instructive workshops
around the country to discuss information contained in these policies.
These workshops are an opportunity for FSIS to work together with
industry to better understand and implement the directives. We are
also continuing our efforts to make these teaching workshops available
to as many people as possible. For example, just this past weekend
we tried a web cast of the e coli workshops. It was a great success
with over 200 people across the country participating via computer.
We hope to be able to offer more of these in the future.
We are continuing to search for ways to help small and very small
plants implement the changes science demands. The wine making industry
struggled with this challenge and by working together they were
able to overcome it. In this spirit, the FSIS Office of Strategic
Initiatives, Partnership and Outreach is devoted to serving the
needs of small and very small plants. I encourage you to take advantage
of this resource that is available to all of you. We have members
of our staff here at the FSIS booth in the AAMP exhibit hall - please
stop by and let them know how we can assist you.
Strengthening Oversight of Recalls
Another recently issued directive relates to strengthening oversight
of recalls. Our scientific measures are all designed to prevent
product recalls. However, in the unfortunate circumstance an adulterated
product is in commerce, FSIS revised its recall directive to improve
this process. The changes to the directive are designed to ensure
that recalls are performed quickly and efficiently. The agency is
also increasing the number of effectiveness checks that it carries
out during Class I recalls, those that pose the greatest potential
of adverse health consequences. The directive also provides information
on the new risk-based system the agency will use for determining
the scope of effectiveness checks.
The number of Class I, or high risk, recalls has nearly been cut
in half from the total observed in 2002. In the first half of 2004,
the number of Class I recalls is 16, down from 29 in the first half
of 2003. This is a strong indicator that our scientifically-based
policies and programs are working - and that you, the industry,
are making a difference to ensure that the American public receives
the safest food possible.
Strengthening State Reviews
I would like to take a minute to mention the state meat and poultry
inspection programs. These are an integral part of the nation's
food safety system. State programs must put in place their own testing
programs for pathogens in ready-to-eat products, animal drug residues;
and specified risk materials.
We have updated and strengthened policy and procedures for reviewing
state meat and poultry inspection programs. In light of evolving
food safety initiatives, we are reassessing the criteria by which
we evaluate state programs, including the need to better coordinate
state activities with those of other food safety agencies.
The goal is to update the cooperative state program criteria and
procedures and corresponding FSIS activities. To date, 28 states
have state programs that operate under a cooperative agreement with
FSIS. The new comprehensive state review process has two parts:
- First, each state performed a self-assessment that was submitted
to FSIS for review;
- Second, on-site visits began last fall to determine whether
the states are maintaining "at least equal to" programs. Multi-disciplinary
review teams conducted on-site verification reviews in state offices,
laboratories, and a sample of establishments. All 28 state programs
will eventually have an on site verification review.
Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE)
In light of the timing of this meeting - I felt it appropriate to
briefly mention BSE. Ensuring that our policies and initiatives
evolve with the latest science is especially important when we look
at BSE. The measures that the agency has taken to further prevent
BSE demonstrate how committed we are to protecting public health
and improving our food safety system through sound, science-based
Just last week, USDA and FDA announced that comments are being
sought on further measures to mitigate the risk to human and animal
health of BSE in the United States. The three measures announced
- A joint USDA/FDA notice that asks for public comment on additional
preventive actions concerning BSE; relative to FSIS, primary questions
for comment include equivalency, the small intestine as a specified
risk material, and sanitation.
- An interim final rule that prohibits the use of certain cattle-derived
materials in the production of and as ingredients in all human
food and cosmetics; and
- A proposed FDA rule on recordkeeping requirements for the interim
final rule relating to this ban.
This is addition to the interim final rules that FSIS has in place.
As an update, FSIS is currently evaluating the over 20,000 comments
they received on the interim final rules.
The American public remains confident in the U.S. meat supply
- and with good reason. Organizations such as AAMP have taken a
key role in tackling the BSE challenge, building on their reputation
as leaders in the area of food safety.
I want to take a minute to thank all of you for your cooperation
and collaboration last December as we addressed the positive BSE
finding. The coordination between all parties, including AAMP members,
was a key factor in ensuring public confidence in the safety of
the meat supply.
In closing, AAMP's history is a proud one, and your association
has included many of the most forward thinking members in food processing.
You continue to be the leaders of your industry. We all know that
protecting public health through safe and wholesome food is not
accomplished through one isolated action. We are all in this together.
Do I believe you can survive? Absolutely. By continuing to work
together to address emerging issues, I believe your industry will
not only survive, but thrive.
I urge you to continue your leadership so that as you hone the
craft and art of your work, we can all continue to enjoy success
similar to the winemakers. I am aware that you had several award
winners at the recent International meat trade fairs. You have all
been part of the successes I mentioned in the decreasing human illnesses.
And I know that by working together, we will only continue to grow
It has been a pleasure to be here with you today. I thank you for
your dedication and efforts, and I look forward to your continued
contributions in food safety. Again I urge you to visit our FSIS
exhibit, take advantage of opportunities provided through our Strategic
Initiatives, Partnerships, and Outreach Staff, and visit our Web
site. I'll be happy to answer any questions you might have.