Tuesday, July 12, 2016

USDA offers public more food-safety info

The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) will soon begin sharing new levels of food safety data specific to slaughter and processing facilities in the United States, on Data.gov.

It means the public can learn whether a packing plant has, for example, had issues with E. coli 0157:H7 food-poisoning bacteria.

The agency has detailed its framework for releasing this data in its Establishment-Specific Data Release Plan, which the agency anticipates will allow consumers to make more informed choices, motivate individual establishments to improve performance, and lead to industry-wide improvements in food safety by providing better insights into strengths and weaknesses of different practices.

“FSIS’ food safety inspectors collect vast amounts of data at food producing facilities every day, which we analyze on an ongoing basis to detect emerging public health risks and create better policies to prevent foodborne illness,” said USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Al Almanza.

“Consumers want more information about the foods they are purchasing, and sharing these details can give them better insight into food production and inspection, and help them make informed purchasing decisions.”

FSIS employs roughly 7,500 food safety inspectors who work in more than 6,000 meat, poultry and processed egg facilities across the country and more than 120 ports of entry every day.

Over the past seven years, the agency has taken an increasingly data-driven approach to identifying and preventing food safety concerns, and the data these men and women collect in regulated facilities every day have made it possible for FSIS to implement significant food safety changes since 2009.

Between 2009 and 2015, this work led to a 12 percent decline in foodborne illness associated with FSIS-regulated products, the government says.

The new datasets will begin to publish on Data.gov on a quarterly basis starting 90 days after publication in the Federal Register.

Initially, FSIS will share information on the processes used at each facility, giving more detail than is currently listed in the searchable establishment directory, as well as a code for each facility that will make it easier to sort and combine future datasets by facility.

Additionally, FSIS will release results for Listeria monocytogenes (Lm) and Salmonella in ready-to-eat (RTE) products and processed egg products.

On a quarterly basis, FSIS will then begin to share other datasets, including results for Shiga Toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) and Salmonella in raw, non-intact beef products; results for Salmonella and Campylobacter in young chickens and young turkeys, comminuted poultry, and chicken parts; routine chemical residue testing data in meat and poultry products; and advanced meat recovery testing data.

There is no word from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, nor from the federal health department, about whether it is prepared to share the same type and degree of information.

My guess is they won't because it might show up their own inspection service as unwilling to shut down a profit-spinning corporation.