USDA Proposes Test and Hold Requirement to Help Reduce Foodborne Illnesses

The US Department of Agriculture has proposed a new requirement for the meat and poultry industry, and the agency says this new rule will significantly reduce serious recalls for meat and poultry products.

Currently, when USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) collects a sample for testing, the sampled products are requested but not required to be held until test results are known. With the proposed requirement, FSIS would be able to hold products from commerce until its test results for harmful substances are received.

FSIS inspects billions of pounds of meat, poultry and processed egg products each year, and it estimates that 44 of the most serious recalls between 2007 and 2009 could have been prevented if this additional safeguard had been in place.

"There is no more fundamental function of government than keeping its people safe from harm, and today we are taking another proactive approach to further prevent consumers from falling victim to foodborne illness," Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen, said. "We believe this will result in fewer products with dangerous pathogens reaching store shelves and dinner tables. In addition, by testing and holding at US points-of-entry, FSIS will also strengthen safety efforts focused on imported food offering an additional safeguard to American consumers."

President Obama's Food Safety Working Group (FSWG) developed three core principles to help guide food safety in the United States:

prioritizing prevention,

strengthening surveillance and enforcement, and

improving response and recovery.

FSIS developed the test and hold requirement in response to the FSWG and to ensure consumers are getting the safest food possible. Of course, since foodborne illness outbreaks affect not only public health, but also consumer confidence, business reputations, and company profits, we can expect that, if approved, tightening test and hold requirements will have broad implications.

To view the proposed requirement, visit FSIS now invites comments on this proposed change in policy and procedures.

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