STATUS OF THE FOOD SAFETY AND INSPECTION SERVICE REINVENTION
Updated May 2000
The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) provides service to consumers
by regulating the meat, poultry, and egg product industries to ensure that
products in interstate commerce are safe, wholesome, and accurately labeled,
including the inspection marks. The FSIS strategic goal is to enhance the public
health by minimizing foodborne illness from meat, poultry, and egg products. The
outcome of this goal is a 25% reduction in the number of foodborne illnesses
associated with meat, poultry, and egg products by the end of year 2000.
Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, Campylobacter, and Listeria monocytogenes are
significant food safety hazards associated with meat and poultry products. In
1996, FSIS estimated that the contamination of meat and poultry products with
these bacteria results annually in as many as 4,000 deaths and 5,000,000
illnesses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that
foodborne illness from all foods may cause 76 million illnesses and 5,000 deaths
in the United States every year.
1. Reduce pathogens on raw products.
- The Agency's Pathogen Reduction/Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point
(HACCP) Systems regulation for meat and poultry products requires plants to
adopt this system of process controls to prevent chemical, physical, and
biological food safety hazards. Specific regulatory requirements for plants
for sanitation and microbiological testing are to be in place.
- By 2000, 100% of all federally inspected meat and poultry products will be
produced under a HACCP system; by 1998, 80% of all federally inspected meat
and poultry products will be produced under a HACCP system.
- Based on the best science available, prepare appropriate regulatory and
non-regulatory options, including HACCP, for egg products.
- Develop a better understanding of E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella and other
foodborne pathogens by developing baseline data and by collaborating on
research and other regulatory and non-regulatory approaches.
- By 1998, more than 95% of plants slaughtering cattle, swine, chicken, and
turkeys will be tested routinely for Salmonella incidence.
- FSIS reached a major milestone in its food safety strategy on January 25,
2000, with the third and final phase of HACCP implementation. On this date,
3,159 Federal and approximately 2,300 State-inspected very small plants--those
with fewer than 10 employees or less than $2.5 million in sales--were required
to implement HACCP and meet performance standards for Salmonella. FSIS
achieved its goal of having all domestic meat and poultry establishments
operating under HACCP.
- CDC has performed active surveillance for a number of foodborne pathogens
since 1996. Preliminary surveillance data for 1999 compared with data from
1996 through 1998 suggest the following:
· The incidence of E. coli O157
· The incidence of Campylobacter declined 26%
incidence of Shigella declined on average by 44%
· The incidence of
Salmonella enteritidis declined 48%
· The incidence of parasitic diseases
caused by Cyclospora infections decreased 70%
CDC has stated that the
declines (from 1996 through 1998) in Salmonellosis and Campylobacteriosis may
reflect changes in meat and poultry processing plants in the U.S. mandated by
the PR/HACCP rule of the USDA. The largest producers in the food industry
implemented HACCP in January 1998. The decline from 1996 to 1998 in the
incidence of Salmonellosis parallels the reported decline in the percentage of
meat and poultry products testing positive for Salmonella at large, federally
inspected processing plants. Reasons for the decline in Salmonella enteritidis
isolates remain under investigation. This decline also might in part be
explained by the decrease in the percentage of poultry products testing
positive for Salmonella in large processing plants.
- As of January 2000, 100% of cattle, swine, and chicken are subject to
testing for Salmonella incidence at the slaughter plant. Data from a year of
testing in small plants show a decline in the prevalence of Salmonella from
the pre-HACCP baseline studies. Of broiler carcasses, 20% tested positive for
Salmonella before HACCP implementation, compared to 16.3% since
implementation; a decline of 18.5% to date. In ground beef, 7.5% of the
national baseline samples tested positive for Salmonella prior to HACCP
implementation versus 4.3% since HACCP implementation; a 42.6% decline. Of cow
and bull carcasses, 2.7% tested positive before HACCP implementation while
2.3% tested positive after HACCP implementation; a 15% decline.
- FSIS has prepared a white paper on E. coli:O157:H7 that was a major topic
at the May 2000 meeting of the National Advisory Committee on Meat and Poultry
Inspection. In the next few months, FSIS will publish notices in the Federal
Register calling for all establishments that process beef to reassess their
HACCP plans for control of E. coli O157:H7. The Agency will also announce that
copies of the risk assessment for O157:H7 will be available.
- President Clinton, in his May 6th radio address, said that the
Administration's goal is to cut the number of illnesses caused by Listeria in
half by the year 2005. FSIS held a public meeting in May 2000 to discuss the
issue. The Agency has also advised manufacturers of ready-to-eat meat and
poultry products to reassess their HACCP plans to ensure that they adequately
address this pathogen. In November 1999, FSIS released a refined laboratory
methodology that reduces the analytical time required for detecting and
identifying potentially contaminated products by at least two days. FSIS has
made significant progress in implementing action items in a plan issued last
- In 1998, FSIS and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) jointly developed
a risk assessment model for shell eggs and egg products to address the risks
of foodborne illness caused by Salmonella enteritidis.
- In December 1999, the President's Council on Food Safety released the Egg
Safety Action Plan. It was based on the results of the joint risk assessment
mentioned above. Under the Plan, FSIS will develop HACCP-based standards for
shell egg packers and egg products processors, as well as be responsible for
providing inspection and enforcement for both. FSIS is also developing a rule
in conjunction with the Egg Safety Action Plan. This rule, expected to be
published in late 2000, will establish HACCP-based systems for shell eggs as
well as for processed egg products. The rule will include components such as
basic facility sanitation, biosecurity, and Sanitation Standard Operating
2. Establish effective working partnerships with other public health
agencies and stakeholders to support the President's National Food Safety
- Expand and improve interagency cooperative agreements on inspection and
establish effective partnerships with States and other agencies.
- Collaborate with other food safety and public health agencies to identify
and encourage research to address food safety risks.
- Collaborate with States, other Federal agencies, industry, and academia to
expand existing information systems and data on foodborne illness and
establish a national clearinghouse on food safety information and education.
- FSIS continues to actively participate in the Partnership for Food Safety
Education, the President's Council for Food Safety, the National Partnership
for Reinventing Government, and other intra- and inter-agency food safety task
forces. FSIS and FDA worked together to establish the National Food Safety
Information Network, part of the Food Safety Initiative, that maintains a
database of educational materials. In addition, the Agency continues to
produce educational materials for a wide audience.
- Under the Food Safety Initiative, FSIS contributes to the Foodborne
Disease Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet) which currently contains nine
sites. For 2000, FoodNet now encompasses approximately 29 million Americans,
nearly 11% of the population. In addition to new data on the burden of
foodborne illness in general, FoodNet found Campylobacter to be the leading
cause of sporadic cases of foodborne illness from 1996 through 1998.
- FSIS also contributes to the PulseNet, a computerized database that
matches the DNA fingerprint of foodborne diseases, and accelerates the
traceback process to the source of the contamination. PulseNet is especially
successful in identifying dispersed illnesses with potentially common sources
of implicated product and in alerting the appropriate regulatory agencies so
they can take action. Recently, Harvard University and the Ford Foundation
selected the interagency PulseNet effort to receive the prestigious
"Innovations in American Government Award."
- Under the Food Safety Initiative, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA),
Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
created the Foodborne Outbreak Response Coordinating Group (FORCG) to bring
together Federal, State and local agencies to develop a comprehensive,
coordinated, national foodborne illness outbreak response system.
- During 1999, FSIS hosted the first-ever joint meeting of State Secretaries
of Health and Agriculture with federal food safety officials on improving
cooperation and working towards a seamless national food safety system.
- In February 1999, FSIS and FDA signed a Memorandum of Understanding to
facilitate an exchange of information between the Agencies about
establishments and operations that are subject to the jurisdiction of both
Agencies. This exchange of information permits resources to be used more
efficiently, and will improve public health protection.
- On December 23, 1999, FSIS published a final rule to streamline the
approval process for food ingredients and additives by ending the requirement
that they be approved separately by both FDA and FSIS. Previously, once FDA
approved a food ingredient, FSIS had to conduct separate rulemaking in order
for it to be approved for use in meat or poultry. The new rule became
effective January 24, 2000.
- In November 1999, FSIS and the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS),
Commissioned Corps, signed a Memorandum of Understanding assigning
Commissioned Corps officers to FSIS to assist in reducing the incidence of
3. Promote food safety from farm to table.
- Cooperate with States and producers to expand knowledge and use of public
health-based on-farm practices.
- Improve food safety during transportation and distribution.
- By 2000, communicate food safety information to 158 million people a year
through partnerships between FSIS and industry, academics and educational
institutions, scientists, and consumers.
- Promote the nationwide adoption of the Food Code.
- Through FSIS efforts, state veterinarians, and other officials responsible
for the production of food animals are incorporating food safety
responsibilities into their practices. Producers and veterinarians are
becoming more aware of the impact of the HACCP rule. State partnerships to
foster producer education continue to encourage small packer-producer
information sharing, and efforts to strengthen relationships between and among
public health and animal health officials are increasing. FSIS entered into
several new state partnerships; producers from these states represent 32% of
all producers. FSIS continues its leadership role by cooperatively organizing
a national conference on the role of animal production in food safety. The
conference is scheduled for September 6 and 7, 2000 in St. Louis, Missouri.
- FSIS continues to be actively involved in the Partnership for Food Safety
Education. The "Fight BAC" campaign began in October 1997 as a unique
partnership of industry, government, and consumer groups dedicated to reducing
the incidence of foodborne illness. The partnership, which was originally
kicked off by Vice President Gore, has grown from 10 founding members to 18
active organizations. Hundreds of grassroots organizations are now "BAC
Fighters" helping to spread the consumer education messages designed to reduce
foodborne illness. Tens of thousands of publications, curricula packages, and
fact sheets from the Web-based Virtual Tool Box have been distributed
throughout the U.S. and the Fight BAC! Web sites had 3 million hits in 1999.
Additionally, Canada became the first international affiliate.
- On May 25, 2000, FSIS launched a new food safety education campaign to
promote the use of food thermometers in the home. The campaign theme is: "It's
Safe to Bite When The Temperature Is Right!" FSIS introduced its new
messenger, Thermy ™, after focus group testing confirmed consumer acceptance
of the character and the message. The campaign was created as a result of USDA
research that indicated that 1 out of 4 hamburgers turned brown before
reaching a safe internal temperature--high enough to destroy harmful bacteria.
Color can be misleading and a food thermometer is the only safe way to be sure
meat, poultry, and egg dishes are safely cooked.
- USDA and FSIS support adoption of the Food Code by all jurisdictions
because it promotes uniformity in the nation's laws on food safety. This
uniformity in turn promotes commerce, fosters cooperation among jurisdictions
on a problem that is inherently multi-jurisdictional, and enhances public
health for all Americans. Senior USDA officials have shown support through
numerous public remarks, direct communications to State governors and other
officials, and agency support of various intergovernmental initiatives. The
Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Secretary of Agriculture signed
a joint letter to state governors promoting the Food Code. In good measure due
to federal prompting, the Food Code has been adopted by increasing numbers of
jurisdictions. As of December 1999, 27 State agencies in 19 states, and many
federal, local, and tribal agencies have done so. Another 25 State agencies,
and the Puerto Rican Department of Health, among others, are in some stage of
the adoption process.
- To better inform consumers, FSIS recently adopted a policy to issue a
press release for each recall. The policy went into effect February 2000, and
serves to alert consumers of all recalls conducted. It also serves to remind
consumers to always follow safe handling practices with meat, poultry, and egg
4. Complete the necessary cultural change to support HACCP and food
- Train the workforce to carry out the redefined regulatory tasks and
procedures generated by the HACCP rule.
- Clarify and emphasize industry's responsibility for food safety through
- Promote new technologies to enhance food safety.
- Establish a Management Development Academy.
- Centralize the management of all policy, rulemaking, and program
development activities to reform existing regulations and eliminate layering.
- FSIS completed training 100% of the meat and poultry inspectors
responsible for HACCP implementation to ensure a smooth transition to HACCP.
Inspection personnel were provided with resource materials and participated in
work unit meetings. FSIS maintained a HACCP hotline at the FSIS Technical
Services Center in Omaha for additional information as needed.
- FSIS implemented the Management Leadership Development Program (Management
Academy) both in headquarters and in the field. The Agency plans to phase it
in over the next few years.
- In 1997, FSIS and Texas A&M began collaborating on the Food Safety
Education Program designed to educate FSIS employees in the scientific
foundation for HACCP and related issues. By the end of fiscal year 2000,
approximately 1,175 individuals will have graduated and received five college
credits for their efforts.
- Management of all policy, rulemaking, and program development activities
to reform existing regulations and to eliminate layering is now centralized
under the Office of Policy, Program Development and Evaluation.
- FSIS is significantly reforming its regulations, and putting them into
plain language that can be understood by plant personnel, FSIS employees, and
the public. Traditionally, Agency regulations were very long, detailed,
prescriptive, and not easily-understood. FSIS has been converting these
command-and-control regulations to performance standards, to clarify
responsibilities and allow flexibility for industry innovation. Examples of
regulatory reform include: eliminating prior approval for certain types of
product labels; eliminating prior approval requirements for equipment;
converting highly prescriptive sanitation requirements to performance
standards; harmonizing and streamlining FSIS and FDA procedures to review and
approve use of food ingredients and sources of irradiation in meat and poultry
- On December 23, 1999, FSIS published a final rule, previously discussed in
this document, to streamline the approval process for food ingredients and
additives. On May 30, 2000, FSIS published a final rule removing requirements
for partial quality control (PQC) programs in meat and poultry processing
plants. This followed previous rulemakings that eliminated many PQC program
requirements. This new rule is the latest in a series of regulatory reform
initiatives published by the Agency to improve food safety. Simultaneously,
FSIS is making regulations less burdensome, easier to use, and more consistent
with HACCP systems.
- In FY1999, FSIS created new job descriptions defining the more
science-based inspection role we will play under HACCP. Although we received
OPM approval for Consumer Safety Officers (CSOs), Congress raised concerns
about our plans to implement conversion to and hiring of CSOs. FSIS reported
to Congress that we intend to minimize costs by advertising vacancies only in
local commuting areas where there is an adequate number of qualified
candidates. FSIS still hopes to hire 50 to 75 CSOs during FY 2000. In the
future, we will need a mix of technical, professional, and administrative
employees. However, within that mix FSIS must increase the proportion of
scientific professionals in frontline occupations. The CSO, a scientific
generalist, will be the journeyman FSIS employee of tomorrow.
- FSIS will soon issue the report entitled The Future of FSIS Veterinarians:
Public Health Professionals For the 21st Century. To develop this report, in
1999, FSIS convened a select panel of veterinarians from inside and outside of
FSIS, a variety of FSIS management personnel, and individuals affiliated with
academe, non-government organizations, and foreign governments. This task
force met numerous times during 1999. In February 2000, FSIS held a public
meeting and solicited comments on the draft report. Recommendations cover five
major issues: Defining the role of the FSIS veterinarian; Education, training,
recognition and recruitment; Development and refinement of partnerships;
Information management centered around animal identification; and Veterinary
contributions to international credibility. Upon receipt of the final report
in the next few weeks, FSIS intends to implement most of the recommendations
which will positively impact our approximatly 1,200 veterinarians.
5. Promote international cooperation on food safety.
- Assure the safety of the domestic food supply through the application of
appropriate domestic food safety standards to imported products.
- Participate in Codex Alimentarius to improve the Codex system and to
develop and adopt international food safety standards that promote fair trade.
- All plants exporting meat and poultry products to the U.S. must now meet
the new requirements of our HACCP system. To ensure the safety of imported
meat and poultry products, FSIS developed and applied a process to assess the
equivalency of eligible foreign inspection programs relative to the
requirements of the HACCP rule. Although foreign food regulatory systems need
not be identical to the U.S. system, they must employ equivalent sanitary
measures that provide the same level of protection against food safety hazards
as is achieved domestically.
- FSIS houses the U.S. Codex Office and maintains an active role in all
Codex activities. These activities include restructuring the interagency
policy steering committee to ensure focus on policy development and
coordination; training of delegates; conducting foreign outreach efforts;
hosting Codex sessions on food hygiene, processed fruits and vegetables, and
residues of veterinary drugs in foods.
- During the 23rd session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, FSIS
Administrator, Thomas J. Billy, was elected to a two-year term as Chairperson
of this United Nations Commission. His role as Chair helps to ensure that the
processes used by Codex to develop food standards are based on sound science
and have integrity. Under his leadership, the Codex priorities will include:
1) continuing support of science-based decision making; 2) obtaining support
from WHO and FAO; 3) increasing and strengthening participation of developing
countries; 4) ensuring greater participation of non-governmental organizations
and addressing the need for transparency; and 5) improving efficiency and
speed of the Codex process and consensus building.
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