03 September 1997
US moves ahead on food safety

By Boyd Champness

THE US government has introduced sweeping reforms at abattoir level in recent years, making industry more responsible for food safety, according to a top US government official.

US Department of Agriculture food safety and inspection service administrator Thomas Billy said an E.Coli outbreak in the US in 1993, kick-started the government into reviewing its food safety programme.

Mr Billy said the department decided that the time had come to make abattoirs and meat processors more responsible for food safety, while the governments role would be to make sure its requirements had been met, and to take appropriate action if not.

Speaking at the food safety conference in London, Mr Billy said one of the departments true success stories was its ruling on Pathogen Reduction and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP).

In short, HACCP is the introduction of new regulations for the nations slaughtering and processing plants. HACCP outlines food safety performance standards with respect to micro-organisms in raw products.

Under HACCP, all slaughtering plants were required to begin testing for E.Coli in January this year, as well as introduce standard operating procedures for sanitation.

By January 1998, full implementation of the HACCP begins, with the largest plants obliged to introduce the regulations first. By 2000 all plants will be required to have HACCP in place.

Mr Billy said the department believed that the adoption of HACCP and food safety standards within plants would have a flow-on effect on the rest of the industry.

“Our new requirements for mandatory HACCP, performance standards, and microbial testing have no direct effect on producers, transporters and retailers, but we believe that the adoption of HACCP and food safety standards within plants will have a ripple effect,” he said.

“As plants are required to meet the various measures of performance we have set, we believe they will apply pressure on their suppliers to implement HACCP-type systems,” he added.

“And transporters and retailers, at the other end, are feeling the pressure to implement controls to keep food safe once it leaves the plant, as well as to establish their own product specifications and testing requirements for improved food safety.”