[Federal Register: April 28, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 81)]
[Notices]               
[Page 22357-22358]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr28ap03-26]                         

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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Food Safety and Inspection Service

[Docket No. 03-009N]

 
Using Applied Epidemiology and Other Tools To Protect the Public 
Health

AGENCY: Food Safety and Inspection Service, USDA.

ACTION: Notice of public meeting; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is announcing 
that it will hold a public meeting on the use of epidemiological data, 
principles, and techniques, and of other public health tools, to help 
it achieve its public health goals. The Agency will describe how it 
responds to epidemiological evidence developed by States or other 
federal agencies; how it uses that evidence; how it conducts food 
safety investigations; and, in appropriate circumstances, initiates 
regulatory actions based on such evidence. This meeting is the second 
in a series of meetings that will aid FSIS in developing a framework 
for Agency public heatlh investigations and integration of the 
scientific principles of applied epidemiology into its food safety 
activities. This meeting is also one of a number of public meetings 
FSIS is conducting at which new approaches for increasing food safety 
are to be discussed. This meeting is the second in an on-going series 
of meetings that will aid FSIS in developing a framework for how the 
Agency will conduct public health investigations and integrate the 
scientific principles of applied epidemiology into its food safety 
activities. It is also one of a number of public meetings FSIS has been 
holding in which new approaches for increasing food safety are 
discussed.

DATES: The public meeting is scheduled for April 29, 2003, from 8:30 
a.m. to 5 p.m.

ADDRESSES: The meeting will be held at The Washington Plaza Hotel, 10 
Thomas Circle, NW., Washington, DC 20005. A tentative agenda will be 
available in the FSIS Docket Room and on the FSIS Web site at http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/leaving.cgi?from=leavingFR.html&log=linklog&to=http://www.fsis.usda.gov/.
 The official transcript of the meeting, when it 
becomes available, will be kept in the FSIS Docket Room at room 102 
Cotton Annex, 300 12th Street, SW., Washington, DC 20250-3700, and will 
represent public comments. FSIS welcomes comments on the topics to be 
discussed at the public meeting. Please send an original and two copies 
of comments to the FSIS Docket Clerk, Docket 03-009N, Room 
102, Cotton Annex, Washington, DC 20250-3700. All comments and the 
official transcript, when it becomes available, will be kept in the 
FSIS Docket Room at the above address.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Philip Derfler at (202) 720-2709. 
Pre-registration for this meeting is suggested but not required. To 
register for the meeting, please contact Sheila Johnson at (202) 690-
6498, fax: (202) 690-6500, or e-mail: Sheila.johnson@fsis.usda.gov. You 
may also register on-site. Persons requiring a sign language 
interpreter or other special accommodations should notify Ms. Johnson 
at the above numbers or e-mail address as soon as possible.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    FSIS administers the Federal Meat Inspection Act, the Poultry 
Products Inspection Act, and the Egg Products Inspection Act. The 
Agency's activities are intended to prevent the distribution in 
domestic or foreign commerce, of unwholesome, adulterated, or 
misbranded meat, poultry, and egg products, as human food, including 
products that may transmit diseases or that may be otherwise injurious 
to health.
    In recent years, the Agency has placed increased emphasis on its 
public health protection role. FSIS has consistently sought to enhance 
the public health by minimizing foodborne illness from meat, poultry, 
and egg products. The Agency has worked toward achieving this goal by 
implementing measures intended to reduce pathogens on raw products, by 
strengthening relationships with public health agencies at the Federal 
and State levels; by making food safety information and training 
available to people at every point in the food production and marketing 
chain; and by promoting international cooperation in food safety. FSIS 
also protects the public health by investigating and curtailing 
foodborne illness outbreaks associated with meat, poultry, or egg 
products.
    For many years, FSIS has used epidemiology and other methods as 
tools in tracking the source of outbreaks of foodborne illness. Recent 
improvements in outbreak investigation and genetic fingerprinting of 
pathogens from persons and food products have facilitated enhancements 
in how the Agency uses epidemiology. It is now possible to identify 
otherwise unrecognized outbreaks and to develop substantive evidence to 
link products to illnesses. The Agency has begun using the techniques 
of epidemiology during in-plant assessments to help identify the source 
of on-going plant contamination. FSIS has also based recall requests on 
epidemiological data that indicated that product from a particular 
establishment is adulterated, but without a positive laboratory finding 
of product adulteration.

Public Meeting

    At the public meeting, FSIS officials will discuss the Agency's 
utilization of investigations of foodborne illnesses associated with 
meat, poultry, and egg products. Epidemiological, environmental, 
microbiological, and other data gathered in the course of such 
investigations, as well as other public health tools, are used to 
determine what actions, if any, the Agency should take, including 
whether to request a recall of FSIS regulated products. The meeting 
will focus on: The progress the Agency has made using epidemiology as a 
basis of regulatory decisionmaking since the first epidemiologic 
meeting, which was held in January 2002; points to consider in 
reviewing epidemiologic findings; and FSIS's thinking on food safety 
investigations initiated in response to epidemiological evidence. FSIS 
will also present a hypothetical scenario based on recent cases of 
foodborne illnesses and in-plant contamination and describe its 
response to the scenario. A panel of food safety experts will then 
discuss the Agency's approaches. Finally, the Agency will open the 
discussion to include, and solicit comment from, the attendees. FSIS 
believes that this type of public process will assist it in achieving 
its goals and will enhance the understanding of the public health 
community.

Additional Public Information

    Public awareness of all segments of policy development is 
important. Consequently, in an effort to better ensure that minorities, 
women, and persons with disabilities are aware of this public meeting, 
FSIS will announce it and provide copies of this Federal Register 
publication in the FSIS Constituent Update. FSIS provides a weekly FSIS 
Constituent Update, which is communicated via fax to over 300 
organizations and individuals. In addition, the update is available on-
line through the FSIS web page located at

[[Page 22358]]

http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/leaving.cgi?from=leavingFR.html&log=linklog&to=http://www.fsis.usda.gov/oa/update/update.htm. The update is used to 
provide information on FSIS policies, procedures, regulations, Federal 
Register notices, FSIS public meetings, recalls, and any other types of 
information that could affect or would be of interest to our 
constituents/stakeholders. The constituent fax list consists of 
industry, trade, and farm groups, consumer interest groups, allied 
health professionals, scientific professionals, and others that have 
requested to be included. Through these various channels, FSIS is able 
to provide information to a much broader, more diverse audience. For 
more information and to be added to the constituent fax list, fax your 
request to the Congressional and Public Affairs Office, at (202) 720-
5704.

    Done at Washington, DC, on April 21, 2003.
Garry L. McKee,
Administrator.
[FR Doc. 03-10393 Filed 4-25-03; 8:45 am]