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FSIS announced today that it will expand and move ahead on the Salmonella Initiative Program (SIP) to help reduce Salmonella in raw meat and poultry products

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today that it will expand and move ahead on the Salmonella Initiative Program (SIP) to help reduce Salmonella in raw meat and poultry products. FSIS’ goal is to reduce and eliminate pathogens before products reach consumers, and the SIP will support those in the industry who want to utilize pathogen-preventing technologies and techniques.

“Prevention is the best way to protect consumers,” said Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen. “This program will encourage innovation by the industry to make food safer while providing us with data and information we can use to protect public health.”

The voluntary, incentive-based program will allow participating establishments to operate under certain regulatory waivers in order to try new procedures, equipment or processing techniques to better control Salmonella. In return, SIP establishments collect product samples on each line during each shift of every day of production; establishments then use these samples to test for common foodborne pathogens such as Salmonella, campylobacter and generic E. coli, and share this internal food safety data with FSIS.

“Our goal is to reduce and eliminate pathogens before products reach consumers, and this program is one way to enlist establishments as partners in that effort,” said FSIS Administrator Al Almanza. “It will improve food safety at the plant level by encouraging industry to test for and take action to reduce pathogens. At the same time, it gives FSIS access to valuable information that will help us continue to develop the most effective policies to keep food safe.”

The notice posted today on the FSIS website and soon to publish in the Federal Register announces several developments and changes regarding SIP, including allowing a limited number of establishments to operate with modified line speed as long as they participate in a study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. The notice also sets new deadlines for establishments currently operating with regulatory waivers to apply for the program, addresses comments previously received from stakeholders, and invites further comments on SIP for 60 additional days.

Comments must be received on or before 60 days from publication in the Federal Register and may be submitted through the Federal eRulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov, or by mail to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, FSIS Docket Clerk, Room 2-2127, George Washington Carver Center, 5601 Sunnyside Ave., Mailstop 5474, Beltsville, MD 20705-5474. All comments must identify FSIS and docket number FSIS-2006-0034. For further information, contact Daniel Engeljohn, Ph.D., Assistant Administrator for the Office of Policy and Program Development, FSIS, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Room 349-E, Jamie Whitten Building, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20250-3700, by phone (202) 205-0495, fax (202) 720-2025, or e-mail Daniel.Engeljohn@fsis.usda.gov.

President Obama’s Food Safety Working Group (FSWG) developed three core principles to help guide food safety in the United States: prioritizing prevention, strengthening surveillance and enforcement, and improving response and recovery. In the past four months, USDA has announced a variety of new measures to safeguard the public from foodborne illnesses. In March, USDA announced implementation of revised and new performance standards which require establishments slaughtering chicken and turkey to make continued reductions in the occurrence of pathogens. USDA expects the new standards to prevent as many as 25,000 foodborne illnesses. In April, USDA proposed a new requirement for the meat and poultry industry called “test and hold” that, once enacted, will significantly reduce the amount of unsafe food reaching consumers. In May, FSIS launched the Mobile Ask Karen app, a Web-based smartphone application that brings accessible food safety information to consumers in a new way. And in June, USDA joined the Ad Council, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to debut Food Safe Families, their first joint public service campaign to help families prevent foodborne illnesses in the home.