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FSIS Seeks Comments on Salmonella Sampling Programs and Activities

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

(American Meat Institute)

The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS or the agency) announced in a Federal Register publication on January 28, 2008, new policies for the FSIS Salmonella Verification Sampling Program and related activities conducted in meat and poultry establishments.  The changes include publication of sample set results (beginning with young chicken slaughter establishments), a voluntary Salmonella Initiative Program (SIP), and agency’s use of targeted sampling results, and serotype and subtype data developed for Salmonella isolates.

FSIS established a goal of having 90% of all meat and poultry establishments in Category 1 by October 1, 2010.  The July 2007 benchmark goals were not met; as a result FSIS has concluded that more robust incentives, including publication of establishment verification sampling results, are needed to drive industry performance in controlling Salmonella.

The Federal Register Notice presents the agency’s argument that meat and poultry products contain Salmonella serotypes that are associated with human cases of salmonellosis; and that in some product classes, particularly poultry classes, the incidence of such serotypes is increasing, not decreasing.  Despite the mention that the percentage of positive verification samples has declined for all three beef product classes, FSIS remains concerned about Salmonella Newport, especially in raw ground beef.

FSIS will begin publishing completed sample set results from young chicken slaughter establishments with Category 2 and 3 process controls around March 31, 2008, and will begin publishing completed sample set results from establishments slaughtering other product classes with Category 2 and 3 process control around June 2, 2008.

The Salmonella Initiative Program (SIP) has been developed to allow establishments to request waivers for increasing line speeds for young poultry slaughter and hog slaughter industries.  To be considered for the SIP, establishments must provide specific information to FSIS on the establishment’s food safety systems and conduct prescriptive microbiological testing, with data and Salmonella isolates made available to FSIS.

Establishments currently operating under waived regulations for on-line reprocessing (OLR) or HIMP will have six months from January 28, 2008 to decide if they want to continue receiving waivers by applying for the SIP or otherwise revert to operating without a waiver – after the OLR or HIMP waivers have expired (six-month time period has expired without the transition to SIP), an application for SIP status will require a nine month waiting period.

FSIS will examine the serotype and subtype data on Salmonella isolates from a given establishment.  If 0 to 1 serotypes (from a 51-sample verification set) are serotypes of public health significance, this will be considered a “low level;” 2 to 4 a “medium level;” and 5 or more a “high level.”  Establishments with medium or high levels of serotypes are subject to a Food Safety Assessment even before the sample verification set is completed.

Comments must be received on or before Feb. 27, 2008, through the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov, by mail to: Docket Clerk, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Room 2534, South Building, Washington, D.C. 20250, or by e-mail to:  fsis.regulationscomments@fsis.usda.gov. All comments must identify FSIS and the docket number FSIS-2006-0034.  Comments will be available for view on the FSIS Web site at: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/regulations_&_policies/2008_Notices_Index/index.asp.

For further information, contact Daniel Engeljohn, Ph.D., Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Office of Policy, Program, and Employee Development, FSIS, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Room 349-E, South Building, 1400 and Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20250-3700, by phone (202) 205-0495, fax (202) 720-2025, or e-mail Daniel.engeljohn@fsis.usda.gov.

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