May 4/Arlington, Va./Occupational Health & Safety -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture on May 2 announced new steps to prevent foodborne illnesses from meat and poultry products, saying the measures will significantly improve the ability of plants and USDA to trace contaminated food materials in the supply chain, to act against contaminated products sooner, and to establish the effectiveness of food safety systems.

"The additional safeguards we are announcing today will improve our ability to prevent foodborne illness by strengthening our food safety infrastructure," said USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen. "Together, these measures will provide us with more tools to protect our food supply, resulting in stronger public health protections for consumers."

The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) will launch traceback investigations earlier and will identify additional potentially contaminated product when it finds E. coli O157:H7 through its routine sampling program and will move quickly to identify the supplier of a product and any processor who received contaminated product from the supplier, once confirmation is received.

FSIS is implementing three provisions included in the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008. They require establishments to prepare and maintain recall procedures, to notify FSIS within 24 hours that a meat or poultry product that could harm consumers has been shipped into commerce, and to document each reassessment of their hazard control and critical control point (HACCP) system food safety plans.

After two years of enforcing the new standards, FSIS estimates about 5,000 illnesses will be prevented each year under the new Campylobacter standards, and approximately 20,000 illnesses will be prevented under the revised Salmonella standards each year.

 From the May 4, 2012, Prepared Foods’ Daily News