|Food Safety and Inspection
United States Department of Agriculture
Washington, D.C. 20250-3700
Congressional and Public
Elizabeth Gaston (202) 720-9113
Carol Blake (202) 720-9113
WASHINGTON, July 17, 2000--The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service announced today that its HACCP-based inspection models project is beginning to produce results showing dramatic improvements in food safety and other consumer protection concerns, according to preliminary data now available for young chickens.
"What this project is about is getting closer to perfection. The system of inspection that we are testing has reduced food safety defects in young chickens by at least 92 percent in plants that are participating in the project" said Thomas J. Billy, FSIS Administrator. "The data are preliminary, but they are very significant results that we want to share with the public."
On June 30, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia reversed a lower court ruling supporting the project and sent it back for further proceedings.
"We are very disappointed by the court's decision," said Billy. "The preliminary data show that it is possible to design a system of inspection that is superior to the one currently in place in terms of improving food safety, and we have a public health obligation to continue our modernization efforts." The agency is exploring all options and is continuing the project pending further proceedings.
Under the HACCP-based inspection models project, FSIS has established performance standards for food safety and non-food safety defects that require improved performance by industry. FSIS conducts continuous inspection with verification to ensure that these standards are met and that products can receive the marks of inspection. Participating plants must revise or develop new process control systems to meet these new performance standards that address both food safety and other consumer protection concerns. Approximately 30 plants that slaughter young chickens, hogs, and turkeys have begun participating in the project, but data from plants operating under the models are available only for young chickens at this time. The poultry data are complete for seven plants, and additional data for for nine additional poultry plants will be forthcoming. The data were collected by Research Triangle Institute, an independent consulting firm.
Two categories of defects are considered food safety related because they could pose a food safety hazard to consumers. In the first category, which includes septicemia and toxemia, the new system led to a 100 percent reduction in defects in birds that passed inspection. In the second food safety category, which includes fecal contamination, defects were reduced by 92 percent. For the five categories addressing conditions that do not pose a food safety hazard to consumers, improvements were documented in four of the five categories.
Billy noted that the agency has received messages from both inspectors and veterinarians assigned to plants participating in the project who expressed disappointment with the recent court decision and believe, based on their own experiences, that the new system is superior to the one the Agency is using in all other poultry plants.
"One veterinarian said that the project was a step forward for inspection. An inspector with 19 years of experience with the agency said the birds she has seen are much cleaner than before, and she would like to see the project continue for the protection of the consumer. Another inspector said simply that 'the system works'."
A backgrounder with more detailed results is available.
For Further Information, Contact:
FSIS Congressional and Public Affairs Staff
Phone: (202) 720-9113
Fax: (202) 690-0460
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