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FSIS Demands Prompt Recall Notification

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is following the Food and Drug Administration in demanding that those it regulates let the agency know promptly if unsafe food is reaching consumers.

The new requirement comes in new rules FSIS has published for public comment prior to implementation.

According to the USDA, the proposed measures to enhance food safety were called for in the 2008 Farm Bill and are now a priority for President Obama’s Food Safety Working Group.

“One year ago the President called on government to do more to ensure our food is safe, and we are working aggressively every day to improve the food safety system in the United States,” said Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. “The steps we are announcing today will help prevent foodborne illness as well as speed our response when illnesses occur–two goals of the Food Safety Working Group.”

The new proposed rule would require that regulated establishments:

1) Promptly notify FSIS if any unsafe, unwholesome or misbranded meat or poultry product has entered commerce;

2) Prepare and maintain current procedures for the recall of meat and poultry products produced and shipped by the establishment; and

3) Document each reassessment of the establishment’s process control plans or Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plans.

Last year, FDA implemented its Reportable Food Registry for the industry to use in notifying the government about food safety problems.  And it was through the food registry that FDA learned that a widely used flavoring agent called hydrolyzed vegetable protein, or HVP, made by a Nevada company was contaminated with Salmonella.

USDA said the proposed new FSIS rule supports the Food Safety Working Group Key Findings announced last July.

President Obama created the Food Safety Working Group one year ago and charged Vilsack and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the co-chairs of the group, with working to upgrade our food safety laws for the 21st century; foster coordination throughout government; and ensure that these laws are enforced to keep the American people safe.

Representatives from all federal food safety-related agencies, including FSIS, FDA, and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention participate in the working group to discuss how producers, processors, retailers, consumers, and all levels of government can work collaboratively to make the food Americans eat as safe as possible.

Comments regarding the adopted regulations must be received on or before May 24, 2010, through the Federal eRulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov, or by mail to: Docket Clerk, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service, Room 2-2127, George Washington Carver Center, 5601 Sunnyside Avenue, Mailstop 5474, Beltsville, MD 20705-5474. All submissions received through the Federal eRulemaking Portal or by mail must reference the Food Safety and Inspection Service and include the docket number “FSIS-2008-0025.”

For further information, contact Philip Derfler, Assistant Administrator for the Office of Policy and Program Development, FSIS, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Room 350-E, Jamie L. Whitten Building, 1400 and Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20250-3700, by phone (202) 720-2709, fax (202) 720-2025, or e-mail Philip.Derfler@fsis.usda.gov.

More information on the Food Safety Working Group can be found at www.foodsafetyworkinggroup.gov

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