FSIS Tells Ground Poultry Producers to Reassess Their Food Safety Plans

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) issued a press release on Wednesday, December 5, 2012, announcing that companies producing raw ground chicken and turkey and similar products will be required to reassess their sanitation procedures and pathogen control plans over the next few months. Specifically, over the next 90 days, producers of raw ground chicken and turkey must conduct a thorough examination of its current Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) to confirm its ability to identify hazards and better prevent foodborne illness. After the 90 day period, FSIS inspection program personnel will begin verifying that establishments that manufacture raw ground turkey or chicken products have indeed reassessed their HACCP plans.

FSIS will be documenting whether establishments made any changes to their HACCP plans in response to the required reassessment and will later evaluate those changes. Later, the agency intends to publish guidance materials for the industry on best practices to reduce Salmonella in ground and comminuted (further processed by mechanical separation or deboning and chopped, flaked, minced or broken down) poultry.

In making this announcement, officials at FSIS are hoping to lower the prevalence of Salmonella contamination within these types of products. This attention to the ground poultry product industry with a focus on Salmonella comes as a response to recent outbreaks that have sickened hundreds across the country in the past few years. Just in the last two years there have been two major Salmonella outbreaks associated with ground poultry products that affected consumers nationwide.

In conducting these reassessments, FSIS is advising companies to look at, among other things, the following:

[E]stablishments should evaluate the adequacy of their sanitation procedures for processing equipment, including grinders, blenders, pipes, and other components and surfaces in contact with the product. Thus, Sanitation SOPs, other prerequisite programs, or HACCP plans should address procedures that ensure that all slaughter and further processing equipment, employee hands, tools, and clothing, and food contact surfaces are maintained in a sanitary manner to minimize the potential for cross contamination within and among lots of production. In addition, FSIS expects establishments to ensure that slaughter and dressing procedures are designed to prevent contamination to the maximum extent possible. Such procedures should, at a minimum, be designed to limit the exterior contamination of birds before exsanguination, as well as minimize digestive tract content spillage during dressing process.

Other FSIS recommendations include validating cooking instructions, examining lotting practices that minimize contact between lots, and requiring suppliers to show that they have used a Salmonella intervention step.

In FSIS’s notice, the agency also announced that it will be expanding the Salmonella verification sampling program to include other raw comminuted poultry products, in addition to ground product; it will be increasing the sample size for laboratory analysis from 25 grams to 325 grams to provide consistency as the Agency moves toward analyzing samples for Salmonella and Campylobacter; and it will be conducting sampling to determine the prevalence of Salmonella in raw comminuted poultry products.

Although these new procedures are intended for producers of ground or comminuted chicken and turkey products, FSIS is recommending that manufacturers of comminuted products derived from cattle, hogs, and sheep or comminuted poultry products derived from poultry other than chicken or turkeys also consider assessing whether their food safety systems present food safety vulnerabilities.

USDA Launches New Online Tool for Faster Label Review

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is the primary agency charged with regulating the nation’s supply of meat, poultry, and egg products. Besides ensuring the safety and wholesomeness of those products, FSIS is also charged with the important function of reviewing the accuracy of all meat, poultry, and egg product labels.

Specifically, the Labeling and Program Delivery Division (LPDD) serves as the agency’s expert group on label review. The LPDD Staff examines all labels and labeling, including all forms of product identification, claims, net weight, species identification and nutrition related to meat, poultry, and egg products.

Typically, companies mail or hand deliver label applications to FSIS, which are then edited before being returned in hard copy. The agency often receives approximately 150 to 200 of these label submissions daily. As a result, the label review process can take weeks.

Yesterday, however, FSIS launched a new, web-based label approval system, called the Label Submission Approval System (LSAS), that aims to make the product label review process faster, cheaper, and more accurate. According to FSIS’ press release, “[LSAS] will make it possible for food manufacturers to submit label applications electronically, will flag application submission errors that could delay the approval process, and will allow users to track the progress of their submission.”

Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen is hopeful that LSAS will be a vast improvement from the label review process currently in place. Hagen stated, “This new system will expedite and simplify the review process for meat, poultry and egg product labels. Reducing the review times for labels will enhance the agency’s ability to ensure that accurate information is applied to product labels and reaches consumers quickly.”

Meat, poultry and egg product establishments should consider using this new tool as it will save time and money for both the industry and the agency. However, FSIS is strongly encouraging those companies to first review the LSAS User’s Guide before attempting to submit their first label(s) through the new system. In addition, the agency plans to host webinars over the next few weeks to provide more information.

FSIS' New Rule on Poultry Inspection Remains Open for Comment

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a press release indicating that the agency’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) was proposing a new rule to modernize young chicken and turkey slaughter inspection.

Specifically, the rule intends to expand the use of the flexible, more efficient, fully integrated meat and poultry inspection system originally developed by FSIS in the late 1990s known as the HACCP Based Inspection Models Project, or HIMP. According to Alfred Almanza, Administrator of USDA’s FSIS, there have been 20 broiler plants under a HIMP pilot program since 1999. He explained that this 13-year-old study was undertaken to determine how best to modernize poultry inspection on a large scale. By expanding HIMP, FSIS aims to focus its inspection resources on the areas of the poultry production system that pose the greatest risk to food safety: the unseen threat of Salmonella and Campylobacter.

Some of the key elements of that new system include:

(1) Requiring establishment personnel to conduct carcass sorting activities before FSIS conducts online carcass inspection so that only carcasses that the establishment deems likely to pass inspection are presented to the carcass inspector; (2) reducing the number of online FSIS carcass inspectors to one per line; and (3) permitting faster line speeds than are permitted under the current inspection systems it replaces.

In the USDA’s January news release, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack supported implementation of the new rule by stating that “[t]he modernization plan will protect public health, improve the efficiency of poultry inspections in the U.S., and reduce spending.” He added, “The new inspection system will reduce the risk of foodborne illness by focusing FSIS inspection activities on those tasks that advance our core mission of food safety. By revising current procedures and removing outdated regulatory requirements that do not help combat foodborne illness, the result will be a more efficient and effective use of taxpayer dollars.” Significantly, FSIS representatives pointed out that the new rule would prevent 5,200 foodborne illnesses annually, would save taxpayers approximately $90 million over three years, and save the poultry industry more than $250 million annually.

Yet, despite noting the positive impact that the proposed expansion of the HIMP poultry inspection system would have on both food safety and taxpayers’ wallets, the USDA received a great deal of criticism from consumers, food safety advocacy groups, the media, and FSIS inspectors themselves.

In particular, critics argued that the HIMP model relinquishes most of the physical poultry inspection duties to the companies that produce the birds for ultimate retail sale. Company employees, rather than FSIS inspectors, will be tasked with sorting defective chickens and examining other quality assurance issues. Inspectors will be responsible for reviewing each bird for fecal contamination. Inevitably, the reduced role of the FSIS inspector will eventually result in the elimination of between 800 and 1,000 FSIS inspectors jobs.

In addition, many are concerned that, under the new rule, poultry plants will be allowed to speed up their lines from an inspection rate of 140 birds per minute to 175 birds per minute. Some inspectors urge that raising the line speed would result in an increased number of unsafe and unwholesome poultry products winding up on the consumer’s dinner table.

However, both Almanza and Undersecretary for Food Safety at USDA Elisabeth Hagen maintain that the proposed rule is a step in the right direction for protecting public health. In response to the argument that the new rules places too much inspection authority in the hands of the poultry company, Almanza explained:  

Right now, we focus on visual inspections of birds, carcass by carcass, and we look for bumps and blemishes. Do these blemishes put Americans’ health at risk? No. But the unseen threats, salmonella and campylobacter, do. Today, we inspect poultry much the same way as we have since the Eisenhower administration, evaluating the quality of each carcass and doing industry's quality assurance work for them. Once upon a time, there was a good explanation for this: when FSIS first started inspecting poultry, quality assurance was thought to be the best way of keeping the public safe and holding industry accountable. But now that our scientific knowledge has advanced and helped us better identify true food safety threats, we cannot do the same thing we’ve been doing since the 1950s.

Further, Almanza said that the HIMP facilities have been permitted to use a line speed of 175 birds per minute since 1999. “In other words, we have more than a decade of experience slaughter running at 175 bpm, the proposed maximum line speed in the rule,” he added.

Hagen underscored that, even with those increased line speeds, when it comes to contamination, the HIMP pilot plants have performed far better than non-HIMP plants. Data collected from the HIMP plants over the last several years support FSIS’ proposition to expand the HIMP program to additional poultry slaughter facilities. 

Due to the negative response to the proposed rule, though, Undersecretary Hagen announced that the rule will remain open for public comment until April 26, 2012. Comments may be submitted electronically by visiting http://www.regulations.gov or by mailing them to Docket Clerk, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), FSIS, Docket Clerk, Patriots Plaza 3, 355 E. Street SW., 8-163A, Mailstop 3782, Washington, DC 20250-3700.

Stakeholders Debate Competition in the Poultry Industry at USDA/DOJ Workshop

It’s been a couple weeks since chicken farmers and processors met with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Attorney General Eric Holder in Normal, Alabama to discuss competition in the poultry industry. The May 21 USDA/DOJ workshop was the second such meeting conducted by the agencies in their quest to review enforcement policy relating to competition in agriculture. The meeting certainly highlighted the fact that there is debate among stakeholders in the industry about the state of competition, healthy or not.

 

Several sources noted with great interest that Christine Varney, DOJ’s Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Antitrust Division, asked one poultry farmer to call her directly if he experienced intimidation from poultry processors. The farmer declared that he was concerned to appear in public speaking about the way poultry “integrators” contract with poultry farmers like himself, who actually raise chicks into broilers. The recently published transcript of the May 21 proceedings also contains a farmer’s anonymous statement that was read to the government lawyers by a farmer willing to speak on his colleague’s behalf.  

 

 

From a policy perspective, there was more to the May 21 workshop than fear and loathing. For example, Assistant Attorney General Varney asked about the prevalence of farmer cooperatives in the industry – to which farmers on the panel replied that poultry farmers do not generally work together in cooperatives. Large poultry integrators, therefore, deal with poultry farmers on a one-on-one basis. And as one can read in the transcript, poultry farmers present in Normal, Alabama generally felt that the large poultry “integrators” have too much power over them. Outside the context of the workshop, Poultry farmers recently sued processors for their alleged unfair practices, without success. On May 10, a federal appeals court upheld the dismissal of claims against Tyson Foods, because the poultry farmers failed to allege that the challenged tactics actually harmed competition – i.e., reduced output or increased prices.

 

That brings us back to Assistant Attorney General Varney’s question about the prevalence of farmer cooperatives. Because the Capper-Volstead Act enables farmers to band together and jointly negotiate with the large buyers without violating Section One of the Sherman Act, farmers could theoretically deal with poultry processors through a collective or cooperative organization.  

 

Leading up to the meeting, large-scale poultry producers prepared themselves for criticism from farmers. The National Chicken Council released a report by an agricultural economist that describes healthy, vigorous competition in the poultry industry. And while chicken farmers at the workshop complained about the “power” of large poultry integrators, the National Chicken Council report cited a 2001 study that found farmers were generally happy to raise chickens for integrators. Interestingly, the report also reviewed government reports that show much higher levels of concentration among beef and pork processors relative to the poultry industry, and the report showed modest declines in retail prices for chicken products over the past 18 years.

 

What’s the takeaway from this round of the USDA/DOJ meetings? It’s hard to say. As a general rule, the antitrust enforcement agencies hate to argue with falling consumer prices. But the transcript reveals certain concerns about the power of poultry integrators over the farmers. Though the government’s listening tour clearly shows that government lawyers from USDA and DOJ are listening, it’s not clear yet what they are thinking. Watch for more clues at the June 25 workshop in Madison, Wisconsin, when the DOJ and USDA will be examining competition in the dairy industry.

Levine v. Vilsack: The Ninth Circuit Rules the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act Provides No Remedy

When Congress passes a statute and the Secretary of Agriculture issues a notice in the Federal Register interpreting the statute, it might seem self-evident that someone who believes that interpretation is wrong can appeal that interpretation in court and get a judgment on the merits.  On November 18, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said "not so fast." 

The decision is a valuable reminder that just because you might allege a wrong, you will not necesarily be entitled to a remedy.  The Ninth Circuit does a good job of making sure that the threshold question of standing must be answered satisfactorily before any other allegations in a complaint are reached.  When, as here, it finds it not satisfied, the case is over.

The case was Levine v. Vilsack, and it involved what seemed at first a straightforward issue of statutory interpretation.  The Humane Methods of Slaughter Act of 1958 ("HMSA of 1958") is the bedrock federal statute dealing with the means of slaughter of livestock.  The key provision of the act, 7 U.S.C. Section 1902, provides as follows:

No method of slaughtering or handling in connection with slaughtering shall be deemed to comply with the public policy of the United States unless it is humane. Either of the following two methods of slaughtering and handling are hereby found to be humane:
        (a) in the case of cattle, calves, horses, mules, sheep, swine,  and other livestock, all animals are rendered insensible to pain by a single blow or gunshot or an electrical, chemical or other means that is rapid and effective, before being shackled, hoisted, thrown, cast, or cut; or
        (b) by slaughtering in accordance with the ritual requirements of the Jewish faith or any other religious faith . . . .

The simple question presented in Levine was whether the phrase bolded above, "and other livestock", included fowl.  Almost from the time the statute was first enacted, and most recently in 2005, the Secretary of Agriculture ruled that it did not.  Levine along with a host of other plaintiffs, including The Humane Society of the United States, sued to overturn this interpretation.

The district court dismissed the case, treating it as a relatively straightforward case of statutory interpretation and agency discretion.  The Ninth Circuit (perhaps wary of Justice Scalia's well-known dislike of legislative history) took a different tack. 

The issue it confronted is in general known as standing.  It derives from Article III of the Constitution, which grants the judiciary the power to decide "cases" and "controversies."  The Ninth Circuit relied on a U.S. Supreme Court case called Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife and its own decision in Salmon Spawning & Recovery Alliance v. Gutierrez to apply a three-part test to the standing issue in Levine. 

(1) that plaintiffs had suffered an injury in fact that was concrete and particularized, and actual or imminent; (2) that the injury is fairly traceable to the challenged conduct; and (3) that the injury was likely to be redressed by a favorable court decision

It was on the third of these tests, whether the alleged injury was likely to be redressed by a favorable court decision, that plaintiffs' claims fell.

The problem lies in the statutory history of the HMSA of 1958 and a companion statute, the Federal Meat Inspection Act (the "FMIA").  Initially, the HMSA of 1958 had a enforcement provision in that the federal government was prohibited from buying meat that was not slaughtered in accordance with its terms.  However, in 1978, Congress passed a new Humane Methods of Slaughter Act ("HMSA of 1978"), which repealed that provision of  HMSA of 1958.  As part of HMSA of 1978, Congress also amended the FMIA (initially passed in 1907 in reaction to Upton Sinclar's "The Jungle") to provide inspection requirements for slaughtering.  Essentially, those inspection requirements became the replacement enforcement mechanism for the HMSA of 1958.  But inspection requirements under the FMIA applied only to "cattle, sheep, swine, goats, horses, mules, and other equines."  Without the "other livestock" language of HMSA of 1958, there was no argument that the FMIA inspection requirement could conceivably apply to poultry.  However, in 2005, the FMIA was amended once again, deleting the specific list of animals and replacing it with the phrase "amenable species."  As the court noted,

Amenable species was defined to include “those species subject to the provisions of this chapter on the day before November 10, 2005" as well as "any additional species of livestock that the Secretary considers appropriate."

Plaintiffs ultimate difficulty, the one they could not overcome, was that they sued for an interpretation under HMSA of 1958, and not to require or overturn agency action interpreting the phrase "amenable species" under the FMIA.  As a result, regardless of the harms they claimed and regardless of the proper interpretation of "other livestock" under HMSA of 1958, there was no remedy the court could order for them based on the actual claims in their complaint.

The plaintiffs tried a lot of arguments to avoid this result.  In a footnote (it's footnote 8 that continues over pages 15456-67 of the case), the court deals with the plaintiffs' argument that "if she prevailed, 'the number of chickens and other birds slaughtered inhumanely will be reduced, thus decreasing her risk of contracting food-borne illness . . . .'”  The court points to other statutes that allow federal inspectors to reduce food-borne illness in poultry slaughterhouses.   But it returns to the main point, which is that it has no power to order the Secretary to make a ruling under one statute when the complaint asks for relief under a different statute. 

In federal court, standing is the gatekeeper of issues.  Without standing under Article III, without being a party that has a real case or controversy in accordance with precedent, no case can proceed.  In Levine, the plaintiffs tried unsuccessfully to straddle the gap between two statutes, as to one of which it claimed an incorrect agency interpretation, but under the other of which it would have had to look for relief.  It was right of the Ninth Circuit not to give it a helping hand out of that gap.

 

Michigan Company Announces Frozen Pasta Recall

A Michigan maker of frozen pasta products has issued a recall for products that were distributed to seven states. Canton, Mich.-based Mucci Food Products is recalling an undetermined amount of frozen meat and poultry pasta products because the food was prepared without federal inspection.

The products were produced from May 1, 2008 to April 24, 2009 and distributed to California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, and Ohio. The recalled products bear the establishment number “19177” or “P-19177” inside the USDA mark of inspection and the dates “1218” to “1149” located at the bottom of the product box.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has complete details of the products subject to the recall, including images of the product labels. The USDA has not received any reports of illness as a result of consumption of the products.

What to Do When the Investigators Knock . . .

This week brought news of yet another nationwide Salmonella outbreak from a source not yet identified by government regulators. The last time we had a nationwide Salmonella outbreak for an extended period of time without identification of a definitive source the federal government initially singled out tomatoes imported from Mexico (a huge array of products). In that case, the government was wrong and wreaked financial havoc on many farmers and businesses.

So far, in the current outbreak, nothing more specific than “poultry, eggs and cheese” have been identified as possible sources. Last year’s outbreak involved Salmonella Saintpaul whereas the current outbreak is Salmonella Typhimurium, which is more commonly associated with poultry, eggs and cheese, but could come from almost anything.

That a source has yet to be identified to the media doesn’t mean that state and federal officials aren’t zeroing in on possible sources. Restaurant owners, retailers and food manufacturers should be ready for the regulators when they come knocking.

In the past, I’ve had clients who were worked over aggressively by regulators (especially federal officials) who were investigating a large, nationwide outbreak with an uncertain cause. These officials face enormous pressure from those in Washington and from the public. Federal officials can make demands that threaten an entire business. They can demand credit card receipts, contact information for customers, personal employee information, shutdown of the business and more. Noncompliance might mean the officials will go to the press and advertise that the business is a target of the investigation. Unlike local health officials, who are usually vested in the well-being of local food producers under their jurisdiction, federal officials may care only about the investigation and nothing else.

Any food business should implement its crisis response team the minute it suspects it could be targeted in an investigation like the one that is currently ongoing. Specialists in food safety and foodborne illness investigations, genetic microbiologists, public relations experts, accountants, quality assurance personnel, purchasing personnel and lawyers should be lined up and ready to go. Events may unfold quickly for your business (over the course of a day or even a morning). Everything needs to be done at that moment to assist a business in navigating what may appear to be an impossible crisis.
 

Is It Really A Food-Borne Illness?

At a recent presentation, Dr. Alan Melnick, a public health officer in both Oregon and Washington, provided a useful list of alternative causes of symptoms to consider when someone claims a food-borne illness. Other causes of symptoms that might be confused for food-borne illness include (but may not be limited to):

Another practical piece of advice offered by Dr. Melnick: When assessing a food-borne illness claim, determine whether the incubation period is compatible with the illness. Incubation periods (along with other useful information) were provided by Dr. Melnick (relying upon the CDC) as follows:

Pathogen

Incubation

Symptoms

Duration

Source

Bacillus cereus

1-6 hours (vomiting); 6-24 hours (diarrhea)

Nausea and vomiting or colic and diarrhea 24 hours (short form); 24-48 hours (long form) Soil organism found in raw, dry and processed foods, e.d. rice
Campylobacter 2-10 days; usually 2-5 days Diarrhea, cramps, fever and vomiting; diarrhea may be bloody 2-10 days Raw and undercooked poultry, unpasteurized milk, water
Clostridium botulinum (botulism) 2 hours to 8 days; usually 12-48 hours Vomiting, diarrhea, blurred vision, double vision, difficulty swallowing, descending muscle weakness Variable (days to months) Home-canned food, improperly canned commercial foods
Clostridium perfringens 6-24 hours Cramps, diarrhea 24-48 hours Meats, poultry, gravy; foods kept warm
Enterro-hemorrhagic E. coli, including E. coli O157:H7 and other Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) 1-10 days; usually 3-4 days Diarrhea, frequently bloody; abdominal cramps (often severe); little or no fever; 5-10% develop Hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS) and average of 7 days after onset, when diarrhea is improving (more common in children, elderly and immune-compromised) 5-10 days Ground beef, unpasteurized milk and juice, raw fruits and vegetables, contaminated water, sprouts, person to person
Listeria 9-48 hours for GI symptoms; 2-6 weeks for invasive disease Fever, muscle aches and nausea or diarrhea; pregnant women may have flu-like illness and stillbirth; elderly, immune-compromised and infants infected from mother can get sepsis and meningitis Variable Fresh soft cheeses, unpasteurized or inadequately pasteurized milk, ready-to eat deli meats and hot dogs
Salmonella 6 hours to 10 days; usually 5-48 hours Nausea, diarrhea, cramps, fever 4-7 days Poultry, eggs, meat, unpasteurized milk or juice, raw fruits and vegetables (e.g., sprouts), person to person
Shigella 12 hours to 6 days; usually 2-4 days Abdominal cramps, fever and diarrhea; stool may contain blood and mucus 4-7 days Contaminated food or water, raw foods touched by food workers, raw vegetables, egg salads, person to person
Staph (toxin) 30 minutes to 8 hours; usually 2-4 hours Nausea, cramps, vomiting, diarrhea  24-48 hours Custards, cream fillings, potato or egg salad, sliced meats
Vibrio cholerae 1-5 days Profuse watery diarrhea and vomiting, severe dehydration 3-7 days Contaminated water and shellfish, street vended food 
Vibrio parahaemolyticus 4-30 hours Watery diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting  2-5 days Undercooked or raw seafood (fish and shellfish) 
Vibrio vulnificus 1-7 days Vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain; more severe in patients with liver disease or who are immune-compromised; can cause invasive infection (sepsis) 2-8 days Raw seafood, particularly oysters, harvested from warm coastal waters 
Yersinia 1-10 days; usually 4-6 days Appendicitis-like symptoms (diarrhea and vomiting, abdominal pain)  1-3 weeks  Undercooked pork, unpasteurized milk, contaminated water

 

2009 Priorities for USDA in Food Safety

I just returned from ACI’s Second National Forum on Food-Borne Illness, which included several interesting presentations and discussions. One was by Dan Engeljohn, Deputy Assistant Administrator of the Office of Policy and Program Development at the Food Safety and Inspection Service (“FSIS”). Mr. Engeljohn spoke about FSIS’s priorities for “2009 and beyond.” Takeaways from this presentation include:

Non-O157 STECs

FSIS is increasingly concerned with strains of E. coli other than O157:H7. Non-O157:H7 strains such as E.coli O121:H19 and O111 are growing more prevalent in the environment. FSIS is putting additional resources into developing methodology for detection of non-O157 STECs.

As FSIS, CDC, FDA and local health departments develop this methodology, the industry can expect more reported outbreaks and more liability exposure. Most experts believe that many non- O157:H7 outbreaks go undetected. Increased focus on detection of non-O157 E. coli strains is yet another reason to examine the sufficiency of your companies' insurance limits.

Frozen, Not Ready to Eat Meals


According to Mr. Engeljohn, because of recent salmonella scares, FSIS remains concerned about “frozen, not ready to eat” meals and specifically “frozen, not ready to eat” poultry meals. He explained that “evidence is mounting that these products cannot be safely prepared unless salmonella is controlled in the source materials.” In other words, FSIS now believes that no amount of package labeling or consumer education can prevent consumers from undercooking these meals.

FSIS jurisdiction over salmonella in poultry is limited. FSIS attempts restrict the sale of “frozen, not ready to eat” meals or impose more stringent standards against salmonella in poultry may be a reach for the agency. As discussed in Supreme Beef Processors v. USDA Salmonella, "is not an adulterant per se, meaning its presence does not require the USDA to refuse to stamp such meat 'inspected and passed.'" Absent statutory reform, FSIS action in this area may be challenged.

Listeria


Mr. Engeljohn stated that FSIS is “deeply concerned” about listeria. It believes that gains made in recent years at meatpacking plants may be undone by problems at supermarket deli counters. FSIS believes that little is being done to address critical control points at the retail level, such as proper cleaning and sanitizing of meat slicers. FSIS may be exploring ways to exercise more jurisdiction to regulate supermarket delis.