A Year in Review - 2015
Our 2015 story is one of agency employees and leadership devoting their time, focus, and commitment to modernizing FSIS business processes and to keeping food safe that FSIS regulates for the American public.
The full report is available as a PDF document (33pp; 6mb)
Executive Summary: Building a Modern Food Safety Agency in FY 2015
Food inspection over the last 30 years has changed, and FSIS no longer relies solely on sight, smell, and touch. Modern inspection and food safety methods have evolved to incorporate a more science-based approach. Modernization continued to be a key agency theme in FY 2015. From the implementation of the New Poultry Inspection System (NPIS) to the issuance of best practice guidelines for retailers to the creation of a more efficient methodology for EIAOs, FSIS continued to seek out new ways, both big and small, to modernize the agency’s approach to food safety.
In January 2015, FSIS proposed new standards to reduce Salmonella and Campylobacter in ground chicken and turkey products as well as raw chicken breasts, legs, and wings. The proposed standards and new testing patterns are anticipated to potentially prevent up to 50,000 illnesses annually. These proposed standards, in concert with NPIS, are part of FSIS’ coordinated Salmonella Action Plan to reduce Salmonella-related illnesses.
Under NPIS, poultry slaughter establishments sort their own products for quality defects before presenting them to FSIS inspectors. This allows FSIS inspectors to focus less on routine quality assurance tasks that have little relationship to preventing pathogens like Salmonella and to focus more on proven strategies that strengthen food safety. The new system frees up more of inspectors’ time to remove birds from the evisceration line for close food safety examinations, take samples for testing, check plant sanitation, verify compliance with food safety plans, observe live birds for signs of disease or mistreatment, and ensure plants are meeting all applicable regulations.
In April, FSIS made strides in outreach and communication efforts with the launch of its FoodKeeper application, which supports the Secretary of Agriculture’s goal of reducing food waste. The FoodKeeper app provides consumers with information about safe handling and storage times for more than 400 food and beverage items, including various types of dairy products, eggs, meat, poultry, seafood, and produce. In total, the application was downloaded more than 84,000 times between its launch and the end of the fiscal year and was mentioned in more than 200 publications.
In May and June, FSIS updated its Food Safety Assessment (FSA) approach by issuing a new Directive and implementing a new FSA methodology. Directive 5100.1 (issued in May) updated EIAO procedures by enabling quicker responses to poorly performing establishments. Along with the new Directive, FSIS also significantly streamlined its FSA tools so that questions better focus on public health risks and identifying key vulnerabilities that lead to better supported decisions for verification plans, and enforcement actions when they are necessary.
In addition to public health benefits, this new, focused FSA methodology created cost savings for the agency—reducing the average estimated FSA cost from $5,629 and 130 hours to $2,105 and 52 hours. In addition, to further align resources with public health risk, FSIS routinely conducts a Public Health Risk Evaluation (PHRE) to determine whether an FSA is warranted. The agency will continue to assess the effectiveness of this new methodology and make improvements accordingly.
FSIS also continued to strengthen its commitment to the humane treatment of animals in FY 2015. In May, the agency published a proposed rule, “Requirements for the Disposition of Non-Ambulatory Disabled Veal Calves,” which would amend the agency’s regulations on ante mortem inspection. Specifically, FSIS proposed removing a provision that permits establishments to set apart and hold for treatment veal calves that are unable to rise from a recumbent position and walk because they are tired or cold. Under the proposed rule, non-ambulatory disabled veal calves offered for slaughter will be condemned and promptly euthanized.