As part of a new agenda announced last week, federal regulators plan to roll out a five year food safety plan that will expand testing and strengthen inspections to protect the nation’s food supply.
The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) released a 2017–2021 Strategic Plan, which will make food borne illness safety a top priority for the agency. The guideline calls for a five year strategic plan that will expand the FSIS’s food safety testing, increase inspections and toughen food safety standards across the country and with foreign food suppliers.
The plan will expand the scope of food safety testing, increase inspections overall, as well as the frequency of sampling, with the goal of protecting the country’s food supply from pathogens that cause food poisoning outbreaks which can sicken millions.
FSIS indicates that a key focus will be placed on increasing the percentage of products sampled for microbial hazards, and the plan will also highlight gaps in testing where the agency needs to focus their efforts to strengthen pathogen reduction standards.
Part of the plan also calls for the agency to increase the number of food production facilities where samples are collected. This includes placing a priority on large-scale facilities, including retail and warehouse locations. It also includes a plan to streamline and simplify the sampling process to prevent duplicate testing.
The announcement of the new plan, while part of the FSIS’s day to day operations of protecting the nation’s food supply, also stems from increasing threats the country faces from food borne pathogens, such as Salmonella, Listeria, and E. coli.
“I’m proud of the work that has gone into the 2017-2021 FSIS Strategic Plan from employeesthroughout the agency,” wrote Alfred Almanza, Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety. “In addition to establishing a clear foundation for our long-range and day-to-day operations, the Plan positions the agency to anticipate future needs and challenges.”
Food Poisoning Outbreak Response
A crucial part of the plan also calls for the agency to enhance its response to food poisoning outbreaks by improving communication. This also includes increasing avenues for widened public awareness of food recalls, food borne illnesses and the adoption of safe food practices.
The agency also plans to update the method of estimating illnesses caused by food products that are inspected by the FSIS. The goal is to gain an understanding of the pathogens that are causing the majority of food borne illnesses in the country.
Another aspect of the 2017–2021 plan includes expanding the method for evaluating food imported from foreign countries. The FSIS plans to widen those inspection programs, while increasing the resources and number of foreign inspections, as well as establishing sample collection models.
The agency said within the past five years it has reduced the number of pathogens found in meat, poultry and processed egg products through stringent food testing and food safety measures. A renewed approach to food safety and implementing the new five year plan will help the agency continue to be successful to achieve those goals.