FSIS 2016 Priorities
FSIS 2016 Priorities
Remarks as prepared for delivery by Alfred V. Almanza, Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety, Southwest Meat Association General Session, Arlington, Texas, February 16, 2016
Good Afternoon. As always, it’s great to be back in Texas.Today I want to walk through some highlights from last year, and then give you an idea for what we have in mind for 2016. Then, I’ll be happy to take questions.
Next week, I’m going before Congress to present our annual budget request. This year, our request will focus on “Modernizing Scientific Approaches to Food Safety.” FSIS is looking to move forward and take the next steps to modernize our science-based decisions by developing and using new tools to drive results.This is a coordinated and integrated effort so that we can improve our use of data, conduct better analysis, and become more proactive on reducing illnesses and performing the FSIS mission.
Some of what I’m going to talk about may not have an immediate impact on your businesses. But I think it’s important that you know what our priorities are.
Last year I talked to you about how GAO recognized FSIS as an increasingly “data-driven, science-based food safety agency.” Well this year, they recognized us as an Agency that “manages for results” in a report to Congressional committees.
GAO reports don’t always say the most positive things—when I have to testify on the Hill or when I’m being interviewed by reporters, I often have to address GAO criticisms. But the fact that GAO has recognized us for achieving goals that we’ve been working hard at these past two years shows we are making progress in food safety.
In the past few years, we have focused significantly on policies and measures. The Poultry Slaughter Rule, published in 2014, is now in effect. Since February 2015, all poultry facilities are required to perform their own microbiological testing at two points in their production process to show that they are controlling enteric pathogens (e.g., Salmonella and Campylobacter). In addition, the rule provides that enteric pathogens are hazards that are reasonably likely to occur in poultry and must be addressed in the establishment’s HACCP system. Finally, the rule provides for a new inspection system in which plants may decide to participate.
Just a few weeks ago, the Agency released new final standards for Salmonella and Campylobacter in Poultry parts, which will reduce the occurrence of pathogens in poultry. USDA expects these actions to prevent as many as 50,000 foodborne illnesses annually.
With Salmonella, we’re focusing most of our attention on poultry products. Of the products we regulate, poultry products are responsible for the greatest share of Salmonellosis cases.
We know that beef and pork do contribute to the Salmonella numbers and so we’re going to take a closer look at these product classes. Last year we did some sampling of pork products at retail. And this year we’ll do exploratory Salmonella sampling in pork establishments. Once the results are in, we’ll analyze them and then determine next steps, which may include the development of a performance standard and look at different ways of modernizing these inspection systems. The exploratory sampling plan is still being developed. We will publish it in the Federal Register before implementing.
Our focus on modernization has led to significant progress in food safety and reduction in E. coli, one of the deadliest pathogens. In the last five years, there has only been one multistate outbreak of Shiga toxin E. coli strain. There was only one recall involving E. coli in meat in 2015. In addition, the United States is leading the world in the use of High Resolution Genome Sequencing and DNA testing. We are partnering with our sister agencies in these kinds of scientific progress.
In May of 2016, our rule on mechanically tenderized beef will become effective. The rule requires that labels declare that raw beef product has been mechanically tenderized. It will require validated cooking instructions on labels of mechanically tenderized beef products going to household consumers, hotels, restaurants, or similar institutions.
Another important rule for the beef industry is our grinding logs rule, a measure that we released in December and will be enforcing this year. By requiring all official establishments and retail stores that grind raw beef products to keep records of the suppliers and source materials that they use, we will ensure that investigators can more quickly determine illness sources before they become an issue.
This final rule will help to reduce foodborne illnesses by preventing adulterated products from reaching consumers through improved trace-back activities. Keeping complete records for all beef grinding activity will facilitate FSIS’s efforts to trace the contaminated product back to the source establishment and thereby to conduct effective recalls in a timely manner. Making sure potentially-contaminated product is quickly removed from commerce will halt outbreaks and prevent additional illnesses.
Last year, we issued guidance on the requirements for HACCP validation and this year, we will continue to fully enforce these. We are committed to ensuring that establishments properly validate their HACCP plans and improve their sanitary dressing techniques so that the possibility of contamination is minimized.
Rachel Edelstein, with our Office of Policy and Program Development, will talk more about validation and mechanically tenderized beef tomorrow, but I wanted to give you an idea of the Agency’s priorities for fighting pathogens.
The main point is that we are modernizing and advancing in food safety. I know that you all take food safety very seriously, and you have a good story to tell. So I encourage you to get out there and tell it.
Thanks for the opportunity to speak with you. I’m happy to take your questions.