Almost 20 years ago, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) introduced a food safety program called Pathogen Reduction/Hazards Analysis and Critical Control Points (PR/HACCP) aimed at verifying the effectiveness of the food safety systems at meat and poultry facilities. That program, however, has at least two ongoing problems, according to a new report released today by the Consumer Federation of America, with support from the Pew Charitable Trusts. First, plants have too often failed to develop effective food safety plans, and USDA has failed to adequately identify problems in those plants, the report says. Second, plants do not face severe enough consequences for reoccurring food safety violations. The report includes six recommendations for FSIS:
- Develop a better way to evaluate plants’ HACCP plans.
- Require plants to identify pathogens most commonly associated with particular meat and poultry products and address them in their HACCP plans.
- Establish clear procedures and repercussions for reoccurring violations.
- Frequently and routinely update performance standards that are based on improving public health.
- Seek authority from Congress to set and enforce performance standards for pathogen reduction.
- Improve sampling programs to target riskiest facilities and products.