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Cooperative, Non-Competitive Approach to Food Safety and Inspection Yields Meat Safety Improvements, AMI Says In Hill Testimony

Thursday, February 8, 2007
 

A cooperative approach to food safety and inspection between industry and government and the meat industry's vote to make food safety a non-competitive issue have yielded significant, measurable results, according to Mark Dopp, senior vice president of regulatory affairs and general counsel at the American Meat Institute (AMI). Dopp made his comments in testimony delivered to the House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies.

Dopp called the 1990s a “pivotal period” for the industry. During the early part of the decade, E. coli O157:H7 moved into the food safety spotlight and became the number one enemy in the meat industry. In the later part, Listeria monocytogenes also emerged as a threat.

“It was a time of both crisis and progress and it was a period when we recognized publicly what we knew intuitively: that optimal food safety was good not just for our customers, it was good for our businesses,” Dopp said.

According to Dopp, AMI petitioned USDA to mandate HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) plans in all federally inspected meat plants. AMI ran an intensive HACCP training program to prepare the industry for the coming mandate.

“During that period also, our Board of Directors recognized that our collective knowledge was more powerful than the knowledge companies possessed individually. Thus, the AMI Board voted to make food safety a non-competitive issue. What that means is that when it comes to information about food safety that AMI member companies have developed or discovered, they share it with each other without hesitation. Simply put, good ideas get better when they are adopted widely.”

AMI also reinvigorated its research foundation with millions of voluntary contributions from AMI members. They had two key goals in mind: reducing and ultimately eliminating E. coli O157:H7 in fresh beef products and Listeria monocytogenes in ready-to-eat products. The Foundation launched a host of new training efforts based upon the collective knowledge and best practices in the meat industry to reduce pathogenic bacteria.

He noted that the incidence of E. coli O157:H7 in ground beef products is down by 80 percent over the last five years. Likewise, E. coli O157:H7 infections are down sharply, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Similarly, the incidence of Listeria monocytogenes in ready-to-eat meat and poultry products is down by 70 percent and illnesses caused by Listeria are also down. Consistent with these results, the number of meat and poultry recalls, and the pounds of product involved in those recalls, are down dramatically. The AMI Foundation has now added Salmonella and Campylobacter to its list of targeted organisms.

In his testimony, Dopp acknowledged a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that critiqued federal food safety regulation and coordination.

“We certainly welcome increased coordination among federal agencies that will make meaningful improvements in the safety and security of the food supply,” he said. “Given the demonstrated food safety progress that has been made in the meat and poultry industry in collaboration with USDA, the meat industry would approach any efforts to reallocate resources or reorganize federal oversight with both an open mind and a heavy dose of caution. Before any such changes occur we want to be sure that they accelerate – and do not derail – food safety progress and public health outcomes.”

AMI represents the interests of packers and processors of beef, pork, lamb, veal and turkey products and their suppliers throughout North America. Together, AMI's members produce 95 percent of the beef, pork, lamb, and veal products and 70 percent of the turkey products in the United States.

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For more information contact:
David Ray
Vice President, Public Affairs
202-587-4243
dray@meatinstitute.org
Janet Riley
Sr. Vice President, Public Affairs
202-587-4245
jriley@meatinstitute.org

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