| FSIS Considering Recommendations as Part of Obama Commitment to Transparency in Federal Government
FSIS should consider making certain regulatory information public, so says a leading non-profit organization on Nov. 30. The highly respected National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences issued its findings during an hour-long public teleconference in a report, The Potential Consequences of Public Release of Food Safety and Inspection Service Establishment-Specific Data.
The agency commissioned the study to determine implications of publishing disaggregated establishment-specific data in the wake of the Obama administration's commitment to ensuring the public's trust in government through a system of transparency, public participation and collaboration.
The study examined the potential food safety benefits and other consequences of making establishment-specific data sets publicly available on the Internet. It also examined potential ways that food-safety benefits and other effects of publicly posting the data might be measured.
"We appreciate the thoroughness of the National Research Council's report on the public release of [FSIS] data and we are reviewing its recommendations," the agency said in a statement. "FSIS is interested in increasing the public's access to information about meat, poultry and processed egg establishments we inspect to ensure increased transparency, greater accountability, and in the end a stronger system to prevent foodborne illness."
Among the committee's findings were that releasing establishment-specific data might favorably impact public health. The study also identified several examples in which federal, state or local agencies release detailed data that are directly linked to the performance of individual facilities or firms or to their products; FSIS was urged to consult with those agencies and to build on their effective practices when designing a public-data release program.
The committee concluded that there are strong arguments supporting public release of establishment-specific FSIS data, especially data that are subject to release under FOIA, unless there is compelling evidence that it is not in the public interest to release them.
FSIS is in the process of evaluating all of the findings and conclusions and is expected to give considerable thought to determine the types of information to make available to provide the maximum public benefit.
Discussing Non-O157 STECs
This week, the agency hosted a public meeting by teleconference on the agency's implementation plans and methods for controlling non-O157 Shiga toxin-producing E. coli in raw, intact and non-intact beef products and product components. More than 260 participated in the hour-long call.
The agency intends to begin implementing a routine sampling program on March 5, 2012, that will include, besides E. coli O157:H7, six additional STEC serogroups (O26, O45, O103, O111, O121, and O145). Initial sampling for these serogroups will begin with raw beef manufacturing trimmings and other raw ground beef product components produced domestically and imported.
FSIS extended the comment period on the related Federal Register for 30 days, through Dec. 21, 2011. To review the notice, Shiga Toxin-Producing Escherichia coli (STEC) in Certain Raw Beef Products, go to www.fsis.usda.gov/regulations_&_policies/
Export Requirement Updates
The Library of Export Requirements has been updated to reflect changes in export requirements for the following countries:
Updates on FSIS Testing for E. coli
Weekly updates for the agency's raw beef E. coli sampling program are posted to the FSIS website.
For comparative previous and current year results, go to www.fsis.usda.gov/Science/
FSIS Revises Salmonella and Campylobacter Verification Testing End-of-Set Letters
FSIS has updated the content of the End-of-Set Letters (EOSL) that it sends establishments at the end of a Salmonella (and Campylobacter, where applicable) verification set. This new letter format provides establishments with more detailed information on each positive sample, including serotype and whether it is on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's "Top 20 List" of serotypes most frequently reported in association with human salmonellosis ( www.cdc.gov/ncezid/dfwed/PDFs/
The agency is actively working towards providing PFGE-based and antimicrobial resistance profile information on positive samples to establishments. FSIS will either provide this information to establishments in a separate letter or in a further revision to the EOSL format. The new format also provides information on the level of process control the establishment has shown in controlling generic Salmonella.
The new EOSL format provides an establishment with clear agency expectations on how it should consider the provided information in its food safety system. FSIS expects establishments to consider the provided results in the decision-making process when evaluating the effectiveness of its overall food safety system. The establishments responses to provided results will then likely be evaluated in a food safety assessment conducted at the establishment, as well as at other corporate-related establishments.
Finally, the letter advises that an establishment that does not adequately take the provided information into account in the decision-making process when evaluating the effectiveness of its overall food safety system may be determined to have an ineffective food safety system. Further, if FSIS determines that a product produced by an establishment is associated with human illness because Salmonella is present in that product, FSIS may consider the product adulterated and take appropriate regulatory action.
An example of the letter can be found on the FSIS website at www.fsis.usda.gov/PDF/End_of_Set_Letter_Generic.pdf.
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