FSIS head unveils new initiatives

Elsa Murano, USDA’s undersecretary for food safety, unveiled at the Institute of Food Technologists' Show in Las Vegas in July a document that reviews recent successes and lays out new initiatives to improve the prediction and response to food safety challenges. "Fulfilling the Vision: Initiatives in Protecting Public Health," is a response to the 2003 challenge by Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman asking the Food Safety and Inspection Service to find new ways to improve the safety of meat, poultry and egg products.

Murano pointed with pride to the recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention document that reported significant reductions in key foodborne illnesses. For instance, E. coli-related cases dropped by 36 percent from 2002 to 2003 and by 42 percent since 1995. Salmonella dropped by 17 percent and campylobacter by 28 percent, both since 1996.

"We have raised the level of scientific proficiency of our inspectors, and we’re seeing improvements," said Murano. "Every year for several years there have been multi-million-pound recalls of beef, until 2003. For the next level of food safety, we want to be anticipatory."

To that end, her report laid out four new initiatives: enhancing data integration, applying risk to regulatory and enforcement activities, associating program outcomes to public health surveillance data, and improving food safety beyond our borders. In addition to the specifics of the four initiatives, Murano noted, “It is essential that the agency continue to modernize its inspection system through risk-based approaches and further refine its management agenda in order to have the flexibility to meet ever-changing threats to public health.”

The new FSIS document is viewable at www.fsis.usda.gov.

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