As the new Modernization of Poultry Inspection rule went into effect Monday, the Pew Charitable Trusts and Center for Science in the Public Interest released their review of global meat and poultry inspection systems. They recommended that U.S. policymakers begin a broader, data-driven effort to update the Department of Agriculture’s inspection system. Traditional slaughter inspection methods for beef, pork and poultry are based on the Federal Meat Inspection Act of 1906 and the Poultry Products Inspection Act of 1957. “These techniques focus largely on ensuring that food comes only from healthy animals,” states the report entitled, “Meat and Poultry Inspection 2.0.” “They are much less effective in protecting consumers from the modern-day hazards that commonly contaminate meat and poultry products.” Sandra Eskin, director of food safety at Pew, compares the U.S. inspection system to a house built in 1906 and frequently redecorated since then. Maybe what we should do instead is knock the house down and build a new one, she suggested. The report surveyed ante- and post-mortem inspection requirements in Australia, Denmark, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Sweden, plus efforts by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to modernize meat inspection. The review was intended to identify innovations in information management and integrated surveillance that could offer improved protections for U.S. consumers. One of the key findings in the report is that robust data collection, analysis and sharing are fundamental components of international efforts to transform existing inspection practices into a modern, risk- and science-based inspection system. The EFSA expert panel convened in 2010 to study approaches to inspections concluded that microbial hazards should be addressed from farm to fork with good manufacturing practices, good hygiene practices, and HACCP systems. With food chain information, for example, inspectors can identify high-risk animals, herds and flocks before they enter facilities so that slaughter practices, control measures and monitoring can be targeted appropriately. “Meat and poultry inspection at slaughter is essential for ensuring human health and the health and welfare of food animals, but it needs to be modernized to take into account changes in the most relevant public health hazards,” reads the report by Pew and CSPI. Their review also revealed that none of the countries sends meat inspectors to every meat and poultry slaughter and processing plant every day, as is done in the U.S. Some countries use private or quasi-governmental inspectors in their meat and poultry inspection systems, while others have completely turned over certain aspects to industry. Based on their findings, Pew and CSPI recommend that the U.S. commission comprehensive scientific assessments to evaluate its existing meat inspection approaches and alternatives for modernization, that a more significant effort to improve data collection related to meat and poultry production and testing be undertaken, and that the U.S. think about incorporating food chain information into its meat and poultry inspection system. “While CSPI supports modernizing meat and poultry inspection, USDA has adopted an incomplete solution without the scientific backing necessary to assure consumers that poultry will carry fewer hazards, like Salmonella and Campylobacter,” said CSPI Food Safety Director Caroline Smith DeWaal. One criticism of the new Modernization of Poultry Inspection rule, which establishes the New Poultry Inspection System (NPIS), is that while it does require enhanced sampling for all poultry plants, it doesn’t specify which pathogens the plants should be testing for. Eskin told Food Safety News that USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is dedicated to improving public health, but that the agency’s proposals, including the poultry inspection rule and Salmonella Action Plan, are “baby steps and they need bigger leaps.” “We welcome and appreciate the report from Pew and CSPI, which supports many of our efforts to modernize and strengthen America’s food safety system,” a FSIS spokesperson told Food Safety News. “As the Government Accountability Office acknowledged today, FSIS ‘has moved to an increasingly science-based, data-driven, risk-based approach’ to protecting public health. This will help us prevent thousands of illnesses every year.” GAO published a 67-page report entitled, “USDA Needs to Strengthen Its Approach to Protecting Human Health from Pathogens in Poultry Products,” on Monday. It recommends that FSIS take action to reduce pathogen contamination on chicken and turkey products, make sure that agency food-safety standards are being met, and better assess whether on-farm practices are effective in reducing pathogens in live poultry.