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Meat Industry Continues Food Safety Improvements: New HACCP Requirements Help;

Thursday, January 22, 1998

Consumer demand has triggered many improvements in the safety of U.S. meat and poultry over the past five years, according to the American Meat Institute. The industry, the government and consumers have stepped up their efforts to produce, inspect and handle meat and poultry products with greater vigilance for food safety than ever before. As 1998 begins, with a major new meat and poultry inspection requirement starting on January 26, the industry says it is proud of its food safety improvements to date and remains committed to continued improvements in the future.

HACCP Requirement is a Positive Step

The meat and poultry industry strongly supports Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) as the best known method for producing safe food. The industry is ready, willing and able to meet the government’s new requirement on January 26: to produce all meat and poultry products in large plants according to HACCP plans. In fact, many plants of all sizes have been producing foods according to HACCP plans for years. The new government requirement is part of the Pathogen Reduction/HACCP Rule published by USDA in July 1996.

“We believe HACCP can improve food safety by reducing contamination at every stage of food production, “ said American Meat Institute (AMI) President J. Patrick Boyle. “The HACCP plans mandated by USDA at meat and poultry plants later this month complement the ongoing, voluntary HACCP plans already being used at many supermarkets, restaurants and farms. “ Boyle said consumers can expect more foods in the future to be produced under HACCP plans at every stage of production, from “farm to fork.”

New Technologies Help Protect Consumers

In recent years the meat and poultry industry has developed new techniques to prevent contamination and destroy pathogens, thus helping to protect consumers. Treating beef carcasses with superheated steam, for example, reduces E. coli O157:H7 and a host of other harmful bacteria. It is estimated that most beef produced in the U.S. will soon undergo this steam treatment. Rinsing beef carcasses with hot water and acidic solutions also reduces pathogens. Irradiation has also been proven effective in destroying Salmonella, Campylobacter and E. coli O157:H7 in meat and poultry. Irradiation was approved for red meats by the Food and Drug Administration in December 1997; a USDA regulation on packaging and labeling is required before the technology can be used.

Education and Training Result in Safer Food Handling

Thousands of meat and poultry plant workers have already been trained to use HACCP plans to produce safer products. Tens of thousands of other food industry employees have also learned how to use HACCP, resulting in improved food handling vigilance in supermarkets and restaurants, which is further protecting consumers. Perishable products like meat and poultry are being handled with greater care for sanitation, proper chilling, packaging, storage and cooking in commercial food production, distribution and retail operations.

Livestock management practices are being developed that will help reduce any potentially harmful contamination. Research is ongoing to find new ways to reduce human pathogens in and on livestock.

Consumers are also getting better education through the new Fight BAC!TM public health education campaign sponsored by the federal government, consumer and industry organizations. The campaign teaches consumers to clean, chill, cook and store foods properly. It was launched in October 1997 by Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman, Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, and other industry and consumer representatives.

“The real key to continuous food safety improvements in the future will be research and education,” said Boyle. “Research will give us new techniques for enhancing the safety of meat and poultry products, and education will help industry and consumers understand the steps each can take to ensure a safe food supply.” Boyle said the industry looks forward to working with USDA to implement the benefits of HACCP-based meat and poultry production throughout the government, industry and consumer community.

AMI represents the interests of packers and processors of beef, pork, lamb, veal and turkey products and their suppliers throughout North America. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute provides legislative, regulatory and public relations services, conducts scientific and economic research, offers marketing and technical assistance and sponsors education programs.

For more information contact:
Janet Riley
Vice President, Public Affairs
James Ratchford
Manager, Public Affairs

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