IPSF 2011 - Regulatory Climate with Regard to Food Safety

US - On the first day of the International Poultry Science Forum (IPSF) in Atlanta, Georgia, yesterday (24 January), Dr John Maurer described the current regulatory climate in the US with regard to food safety in poultry. Jackie Linden, senior editor of ThePoultrySite, reports.
calendar icon 25 January 2011
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Dr John J. Maurer of the University of Georgia in Athens began his presentation saying that, during the summer of 2010, there was a significant Salmonella Enteritidis outbreak involving 11 US states and 3,182 reported human illnesses. It was tied to the consumption of table eggs. This event followed other major outbreaks of food-borne disease: in 2006, E. coli in spinach and in 2009, Salmonella Typhimurium in peanuts.

According to a recently published survey, he said, up to one US resident in 30 suffers some form of food poisoning every year. Many of these go unreported as the victim usually recovers without needing to seeking medical advice but 1,351 deaths were recorded in the previous year.

While significant in-roads have been made to reduce foodborne illnesses, there has been little progress made in reducing the human illnesses associated with Salmonella enterica (16 cases per 100,000 people), he said.

Government agencies became concerned over the number of cases and in 2008, USDA Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) approached the National Academy of Sciences to develop with the aim halve the number of cases by 2010. Dr Maurer became involved in this process as a member of the Institute of Medicine committee.

Dr Maurer explained that in response, FSIS started introducing several changes to current food safety regulations. These include lowering baseline Salmonella performance standards in broiler processing from 20 per cent to 7.5 per cent and introducing new performance standards for Campylobacter.

In response to the 2010 S. Enteritidis egg outbreak, Dr Maurer expects there to be changes to US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) current regulatory guidelines for layers and table eggs.

On 4 January this year, President Obama signed into legislation the Food Safety Modernization Act, which includes the introduction of Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points (HACCP) systems into the whole food production chain, mandatory recalls where problems emerge and the improvement of partnerships between the various federal, state and local agencies.

Despite the new legislation, Dr Maurer highlighted that a number of areas in the new Act that are yet to be considered. He highlighted the need to have ways to measure success – especially when incidents of food poisoning are still relatively rare – as well as identifying effective measures to reduce pathogen contamination. Last but not least, he mentioned the economics of these controls: government is challenged to meet the costs by budgetary pressures in these difficult economic times, food costs increases to consumers need to be minimised and there are also potential impacts for jobs, in this case in the US poultry industry.

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