The beef industry benefits by doing everything in its power to ensure the safest possible beef supply. HACCP is the cornerstone of our food safety efforts and is something we take seriously. In fact, it was industry that petitioned USDA in 1994 to make HACCP mandatory.
We know that our HACCP plans and our food safety technologies are working to enhance beef safety. USDA data indicate that bacteria levels on fresh beef have declined since HACCP went into effect five years ago. In addition, Centers for Disease Control data indicate that foodborne illnesses associated with fresh beef are down. These numbers reflect an industry that is committed to HACCP.
Based on our knowledge of the facts, some news media have mischaracterized comments made by the U.S. Department of Agriculture this week regarding reviews of HACCP plans in large beef plants. USDA officials indicated that their reviews showed that HACCP plans in some plants had "scientific and design issues and not direct food safety issues." USDA so far has reviewed HACCP plans in 35 of 130 large beef plants. In 21 of the total 130 plants that will be reviewed, “design flaws” were identified. In a clarifying statement issued today, the Food Safety and Inspection Service said, “The plants have responded to FSIS questions in writing in keeping with FSIS regulatory requirements." Stories bearing headlines like “Most Meat Plants Violate Food Safety Rules” are patently false. This type of reporting is inaccurate and counterproductive.
There are no benefits to taking food safety shortcuts in our HACCP plans; to the contrary, we benefit by having the best possible HACCP plans and that is what beef companies have tried to prepare. The industry will take any comments provided by FSIS seriously and will make appropriate changes to HACCP plans.
Careless reporting of this type of information serves only to alarm consumers about a meat supply that is safe and getting safer every day.