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Web Content Viewer (JSR 286)

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Web Content Viewer (JSR 286)

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Web Content Viewer (JSR 286)

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Web Content Viewer (JSR 286)

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Web Content Viewer (JSR 286)

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Oral Statement of Al Almanza, Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety, Before the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies, Committee on Appropriations, U.S. House of Representatives

Introduction

Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Farr, and members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to discuss the status of the Agency's programs and policies. I am pleased to appear before you today in support of the President’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget request for FSIS. With the requested funding level, I am confident that FSIS will maintain effectiveness in its core mission of preventing foodborne illness.

Before I get into the budget request, let me take a moment to thank Representatives Valadao and DeLauro for joining FSIS on plant tours. I would also like to extend the invitation to any members or staff to join a tour in the future. A plant tour is really the best way to see what our inspectors on the line are doing on a daily basis to protect the public’s health.

Foodborne illness is a significant public health problem that affects 1 in 6 Americans and results in 3,000 deaths every year. The highest priority of FSIS is to prevent as many of those illnesses as we possibly can. The USDA mark of inspection is an important part of the confidence that American consumers have in the safety of their food supply.

With Congress’ support, we have begun to modernize how we do inspection. Our modernization efforts will lead to fewer illnesses from meat, poultry, and egg products.  We recently updated our 60 year old poultry safety system by implementing a final rule that requires plants to do testing at two points in the slaughter line to verify process control. In addition, the rule requires plants to treat Salmonella and Campylobacter as hazards that are reasonably likely to occur, and it makes available the New Poultry Inspection System to plants throughout the country. Earlier this month we finalized the first ever pathogen reduction standards for chicken parts, which make up 80 percent of the chicken Americans consume. These new standards, along with our new standards for comminuted poultry, could help to prevent an estimated 50,000 foodborne illnesses.

We are also laying the groundwork for continued modernization in the years ahead as we develop our new five-year Strategic Plan. Building on this theme of modernization, the Agency is asking for funding to strengthen our use of science.  We are seeking to expand our use of Whole Genome Sequencing technology, which will provide FSIS with a much better understanding of what it means when we find pathogens in the products we test. It will also greatly improve the accuracy of the conclusions we reach based on our foodborne illness investigations.

FSIS is asking for an increase in our budget to expand lab analysis, Whole Genome Sequencing, and testing. A key part of our Agency’s food safety efforts is sampling and analysis for pathogens, adulterants, and contamination. Our analysis shows that the Agency’s sampling encourages establishments to improve the effectiveness of their food safety systems.

I began my career in 1978 as a slaughter inspector in Dalhart, Texas. One of the most significant changes I’ve seen in my time with the FSIS has been the shift from paper to the Public Health Information System, or PHIS, which allows the Agency to collect and store inspection data in one central location. The challenge now is to use this data to identify trends, connect the dots, and make meaningful improvements to public health.

This is why the Agency is requesting a funding increase for Advanced Data Analytics. This technology presents an important opportunity to further our efforts to fulfill our food safety mission by using analysis to identify trends in our data and modify our decision-making to respond to those trends.

Conclusion

The dedicated men and women of FSIS are on the front lines nationwide performing inspection procedures that are based on the best available scientific evidence. FSIS will always prioritize in-plant food safety inspection. We must ensure that the procedures and tasks that our inspection personnel perform are up to date, meaningful and targeted at threats to public health.

Last Modified Feb 26, 2016