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Meat, poultry inspections will focus on sources of the biggest health risks

by 5m Editor
20 February 2007, at 10:57am

WASHINGTON - The first major changes to food inspection in a decade will increase federal scrutiny of meat and poultry plants where the danger from E. coli and other germs is high or where past visits have found unsafe practices.

The new policy will result in fewer inspections at plants with lower risks and better records for handling meat and poultry.

“We’re just putting resources where the risk is greatest, and those plants that demonstrate excellent control will get less of our resources,” said Richard Raymond, the Agriculture Department’s top food safety official.

To decide the level of scrutiny a plant should get, the “risk-based” system will consider the type of product and the plant’s record of food safety violations.

A plant that makes hamburger and has repeated violations would get more inspection. A plant that makes cooked, canned ham and has a clean track record would get less scrutiny.

“There are certain food products that carry a higher inherent risk than others,” Raymond, the undersecretary for food safety, said in an interview with The Associated Press. “And there are certain plants that do a better job of controlling risk than others.”

For now, the new system will be used in processing plants, not in slaughter plants. No timetable has been set for shifting to the new inspection system.

Critics say the idea sounds good, but they fear department officials are rushing a complex new system into place.

“One of the concerns is that this is simply an effort to save money in a tight budget year,” said Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “We want to make sure a budget shortfall is not what’s driving these important inspection decisions.”

Source: Rockford Register Star

5m Editor