After conducting a formal review of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) pathogen reduction practices in relation to meat and poultry, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has three new recommendations for the agency’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

  1. Improve the agency’s record-keeping and documentation - GAO suggested that FSIS begin documenting the agency’s process for deciding which products to consider for new pathogen standards, including the basis on which such decisions should be made. While there are standards in place that limit the amount of Salmonella and Campylobacter that can be present in certain meats (ground beef, pork carcasses, and chicken breasts), such standards have not be set for other meat products like turkey breasts and pork chops.
  2. Add timelines to tasks - GAO found that USDA has a number of food safety standards that are outdated and include no deadlines for revision. The recommendation is that the agency set time frames for determining what pathogen standards or additional policies are needed to address pathogens in beef carcasses, ground beef, pork cuts, and ground pork.
  3. Check on the effectiveness of on-farm practices - FSIS should include available information on the effectiveness of on-farm practices to reduce the level of pathogens as it finalizes its guidelines for controlling Salmonella in hogs.

These are GAO’s first recommendations to FSIS in 4 years.

A draft of the report was given to the USDA, as well as to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Written comments confirm that USDA does agree with GAO’s three recommendations and has expressed plans to implement them.

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