The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is out with its report card of “key 2017 achievements in protecting public health, preventing foodborne illness and promoting confidence in the U.S. food supply.”
In 2017, FSIS says it inspected more than 155 million head of livestock and 9.45 billion poultry carcasses. FSIS Inspectors also reported conducting 6.9 million food safety and food defense procedures across 6,500 regulated establishments to ensure that meat, poultry, and processed egg products were safe and wholesome.
“FSIS’ dedicated public servants take their public health mission seriously and work tirelessly to prevent foodborne illness,” said Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Carmen Rottenberg. “The U.S. food safety inspection system is the most reliable and trusted in the world, and we will continue to earn that trust by protecting public health and modernizing systems and processes.”
Targeting Foodborne Illness
FSIS continued its multipronged approach to combat Salmonella in fiscal year (FY) 2017. FSIS continued sampling of poultry carcasses, established new pathogen reduction standards for Salmonella and Campylobacter in comminuted poultry and chicken parts. FSIS also sampled raw beef while continuing the sampling program for Salmonella in pork products to determine the presence and levels of Salmonella in five types of processed pork products.
FSIS continued to strengthen coordination of federal foodborne outbreak response responsibilities with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In collaboration with our partners, FSIS bolstered its approach to preventing illnesses and deaths associated with multistate foodborne outbreaks by stopping outbreaks rapidly, when they occur, and by avoiding future foodborne outbreaks. FSIS accomplished this by enhancing coordination among federal foodborne outbreak detection and response agencies, ensuring the roles and responsibilities of the different national organizations are defined and well-integrated, improving processes to stop foodborne outbreaks rapidly and communicating food safety system gaps identified during investigations to inform efforts to prevent future outbreaks.
In 2017, FSIS continued its initiatives to modernize operations and inspection systems. FSIS continued to upgrade poultry inspection under the New Poultry Inspection System (NPIS) through its science-based, precautionary approach poultry inspection. In 2017, FSIS continued to achieve successful conversion of poultry establishments that chose to opt-in to NPIS. FSIS regulations, which changed under NPIS rulemaking, mandate that all poultry establishments – even those that do not opt-in to NPIS – take steps to prevent contamination, rather than addressing disease after it has occurred. With NPIS, food safety inspectors are now better positioned to verify that establishments maintain efficient food safety systems by increasing food safety and sanitation verification tasks. These verifications are a more effective and efficient use of resources due to their focus on food safety-related tasks.
FSIS also enhanced its science-based approach to illness prevention with the introduction of whole genome sequencing. This technology will allow the agency to accurately identify and respond to outbreaks, enrich collaborations with other federal and state agencies and conduct active illness investigations back to the source. The organization is poised to address the 21st century’s public health challenges with the continued modernization of processes, policies, and technologies.
In 2017, FSIS successfully implemented inspection of Siluriformes fish by transitioning regulatory oversight from the FDA to FSIS. Following an 18-month transition period, full implementation of Siluriformes inspection began September 1, 2017. Also, 100 percent re-inspection of imported shipments of Siluriformes fish started August 2, 2017. FSIS worked with stakeholders to identify businesses, both domestic and international, that would be impacted to provide information and training on FSIS inspection requirements to ensure a smooth transition. FSIS also worked diligently with foreign countries to provide feedback on documentation submitted by nations seeking equivalence to import Siluriformes products to the United States.
In FY 2017, FSIS protected public health by preventing the entrance of or removing over, 715,000 pounds of adulterated or ineligible imported Siluriformes product from U.S. commerce.
Foreign Country Equivalence Oversight and Import Reinspection Programs
FSIS strengthened its oversight and reinspection of products coming into the United States. FSIS conducted equivalence determinations, audited foreign country systems and reinspected imported products to ensure that all imported products are safe and wholesome for American families. In 2017, FSIS completed ongoing equivalence verification audits of 17 countries to ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations. Currently, more than 185 establishments and 33 nations are deemed eligible by FSIS. In 2017, approximately four billion pounds of meat and poultry products came to FSIS for re-inspection from countries that are actively exporting product to the United States.
Outreach is an important part of FSIS’ efforts to inform and educate a variety of audiences (including consumers and regulated industry) on FSIS policies, activities, and foodborne illness prevention.
In addition, our outreach is critical to our continued efforts to modernize and ensure that small and very small plants have access to resources and valuable FSIS guidance. The agency issued guidance to the industry on several critical topics, including how to label product correctly and support those labeling claims. Additionally, FSIS posted advice to further assist establishments in distinguishing whether or not a label must be submitted for approval.
FSIS provided consumer information through new and enhanced channels including Pinterest and extended hours of operation for the USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline. In addition, FSIS conducted significant outreach to consumers leading up to major holidays and during weather emergencies to achieve 53 million consumer impressions.
“FSIS will continue to increase our use of whole-genome sequencing and develop key informational tools and resources for inspection personnel,” said Acting FSIS Administrator Paul Kiecker. “We’ll continue to ensure that U.S. meat, poultry, and egg products are the safest in the world.”
FSIS currently employs more than 9,000 employees, of which over 8,000 work in federally-regulated establishments, laboratories, import establishments or in-commerce facilities.
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