NTF Executive Testifies on USDA’s Food Safety System Before House Agriculture Committee

October 24, 2012
Washington, D.C.
Untitled Document A National Turkey Federation (NTF) official told a congressional subcommittee today that USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has made significant strides since the implementation of the Pathogen Reduction/Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) regulation in 1997.

“HACCP is arguably one of the most advanced, science-based food inspection programs in the world and has supported the improved safety of the meat and poultry products produced in the United States,” Dr. Michael Rybolt, NTF director of scientific and regulatory affairs, said in testimony before the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry. “Any changes to the existing statute should be done with a scalpel, not an axe, to ensure that the current level of inspection is not compromised.”

Rybolt explained to subcommittee members that as part of HACCP, FSIS mandates pathogen performance standards for each product class and conducts product sampling and microbiological testing to ensure that establishments are meeting these standards. Since 1998, the incidence of Salmonella on meat and poultry products has dropped significantly. Virtually all product classes subjected to FSIS’ Salmonella verification testing are at or below half of their respective performance standards.

While Congress may have a role to play in further modernizing and enhancing the inspection system, Rybolt cautioned that any legislative changes to the meat and poultry inspection laws should take into consideration that food safety processes and technologies will continue to advance in the future. For example, some have called for changing the inspection laws so that plants are required by statute, rather than regulation, to have a HACCP plan. Rybolt said such a statutory change could cause long-term problems.

“Changes (to statute) should not be so prescriptive that they stifle innovation and prevent the Secretary of Agriculture from making modifications to the inspection process,” Rybolt said. “If 15 years from now a food safety program more advanced than HACCP emerges, the secretary would be limited to either ignoring the advance or requiring the new program to be used in addition to HACCP.”

Though the U.S. poultry and meat supply is the safest in the world, Rybolt said the turkey industry recognizes changes could be made to further enhance consumer protection. Rybolt concluded, “As the food safety reform debate moves to the forefront of the congressional agenda, any changes that are enacted should ensure improvements will be garnered and a measurable public health outcome is achieved.”

Rybolt’s testimony is available on the House Committee on Agriculture’s Web site, www.agriculture.house.gov.

About the National Turkey Federation
The National Turkey Federation (NTF) is the national advocate for all segments of the $8 billion turkey industry, providing services and conducting activities that increase demand for its members' products by protecting and enhancing their ability to profitably provide wholesome, high-quality, nutritious products. Its award-winning web site, EatTurkey.com, offers consumers, food professionals and the media an extensive library of information including healthy eating and restaurant trends, turkey cuts and purchasing tips, turkey nutrition and cooking techniques, and turkey facts and trivia. Additionally, the site presents a searchable database of more than 1,800 recipes, offers a recipe E-mail program and provides special seasonal and holiday ideas. The National Turkey Federation is headquartered in Washington, D.C.