USDA announces unified food safety agenda

Also a list of research needs specific to meat, poultry and egg products

By John Gregerson, Managing Editor

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Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman has announced a unified food safety research agenda to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of food safety programs -- one of several key initiatives USDA is undertaking to enhance food safety and improve food inspection systems.

USDA also released a list of additional research needs specific to meat, poultry and egg products that the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) will encourage non-governmental entities to address, with government research complementing those efforts.

The unified agenda, which prioritizes research needs and maximizes use of available resources, includes research to:

* investigate the ecology, epidemiology, virulence and genetic characteristics related to pathogenicity for E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes and other foodborne pathogens to identify targeted control measures;

*develop effective on-farm, feedlot, transportation, handling and other pre-processing intervention strategies for reducing the incidence and levels of antibiotic resistant microorganisms and key foodborne pathogens in meat, poultry, eggs and fresh produce;

*develop, validate and transfer technology of new and improved processing methods to reduce or eliminate key foodborne pathogens in meat, poultry, fresh produce, seafood and ready-to-eat foods;

*develop rapid and sensitive detection methods for abnormal prions to prevent the possible spread of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies.

FSIS released a food safety vision document in July that outlines key steps to improve food safety and protect public health. In addition to the research agenda, the vision paper identifies strategies to improve workforce training, streamline technology implementation, identify best management practices and risk analysis coordination.

The complete USDA unified food safety research agenda is available at http://www.reeusda.gov/ree/doc/foodsaf_research.doc. The research priorities specific to meat, poultry and egg products and the vision document, in addition to other food safety information, is available at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/.

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