WASHINGTON, D.C. (7/2/12) – The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) today announced new steps to safeguard the food supply and to protect consumers nationwide. Later this summer, the Department will launch a new approach to its testing to protect the public from exposure to harmful levels of chemical residues in meat, poultry, and egg products.
"The new testing methods being announced today will help protect consumers from illegal drug residues in meat products," USDA under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen said. "By allowing us to test for more chemical compounds from each sample, these changes will enable USDA to identify and evaluate illegal drug residues more effectively and efficiently."
Through its National Residue Program (NRP), FSIS tests for the presence of chemical compounds, including approved (legal) and unapproved (illegal) veterinary drugs, pesticides, hormones, and environmental contaminants that may appear in meat, poultry, and egg products. The new, modern, high-efficiency methods that FSIS is announcing today will conserve resources and provide useful and reliable results while enabling the Agency to analyze each sample for more chemical compounds than previously possible.
One of the multi-residue methods being implemented for veterinary drugs will allow the Agency to screen for chemical compounds that include several types of legal and illegal drugs such as antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and growth promoters. In the past, FSIS would have collected 300 samples from 300 cows and looked for just one chemical at a time. Under the new system, one sample may be tested for as many as 55 pesticide chemicals, 9 kinds of antibiotics, various metals, and eventually more than 50 other chemicals. In all, FSIS will assess more compounds per sample using several multi-residue methods.
FSIS is also revamping its scheduled sampling program to increase the annual number of samples per slaughter class from 300 to 800. If an establishment has samples containing illegal residue levels, FSIS will notify the Food and Drug Administration, which may review practices of producers supplying the establishment with livestock or poultry, and FSIS may subject the establishment to increased testing and review.
FSIS is responsible for protecting the health and welfare of consumers by regulating the meat, poultry, and egg products produced in federally inspected establishments. One way FSIS provides this protection is through the NRP—an inter-departmental collaboration designed to protect the public from exposure to harmful levels of chemical residues in meat, poultry, and egg products produced or imported into the United States. The NRP is designed to provide a structured process for identifying and evaluating chemical compounds of concern in food animals; collecting, analyzing and reporting results; and identifying the need for regulatory follow-up when violated levels of chemical residues are found.
FSIS is inviting interested persons to submit comments on today's announcement, which is tentatively slated to be published in the Federal Register on July 6, 2012 at http://www.regulations.gov. The new testing regimen is expected to take effect 30 days after the Federal Register notice is published.
In the past two years, FSIS has announced several new measures to safeguard the food supply, prevent foodborne illness, and improve consumers' knowledge about the food they eat. These initiatives support the three core principles developed by the President's Food Safety Working Group: prioritizing prevention; strengthening surveillance and enforcement; and improving response and recovery. Some of these actions include:
Zero-tolerance policy for non-O157:H7 STECs. On June 4, 2012, FSIS began routinely testing raw beef manufacturing trim for six strains of non-O157:H7 Shiga-toxin producing E. coli (STEC) serogroups. Trim found to be contaminated with these pathogens, which can cause severe illness and even death, will not be allowed into commerce and will be subject to recall.
Labeling requirements that provide better information to consumers about their food by requiring nutrition information for single-ingredient raw meat and poultry products and ground or chopped products.
Public Health Information System, a modernized, comprehensive database with information on public health trends and food safety violations at the nearly 6,100 plants FSIS regulates.
Performance standards for poultry establishments for continued reductions in the occurrence of pathogens. After two years of enforcing the new standards, FSIS estimates that approximately 5,000 illnesses will be prevented each year under the new Campylobacter standards, and approximately 20,000 illnesses will be prevented under the revised Salmonella standards each year.
Test and hold policy that will significantly reduce consumer exposure to unsafe meat products, should the policy become final, because products cannot be released into commerce until Agency test results for dangerous contaminants are known.
Information provided by the USDA
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