FSIS will begin testing for these six serogroups of STEC and enforcing the new policy on March 5, 2012. The Agency invites interested persons to submit comments within 60 days of publication in the Federal Register. FSIS would like to hear from the public on a number of issues highlighted in the Federal Register notice, including the implementation of the policy and additional outreach the Agency will conduct, such as public meetings.
Over the past two years, FSIS has announced several new measures to safeguard the food supply, prevent foodborne illness, and improve consumers' knowledge about the food they eat. These initiatives support the three core principles developed by the President's Food Safety Working Group (FSWG). Some of these actions include:
- Performance standards for poultry establishments for continued reductions in the occurrence of pathogens. USDA expects the new standards to prevent as many as 25,000 foodborne illnesses annually. This includes a tougher performance standard for Salmonella and the first ever performance standard for Campylobacter.
- Test and hold policy that will significantly reduce consumer exposure to unsafe meat products, because products cannot be released into commerce until Agency test results for dangerous contaminants are known.
- Labeling proposals that provide better information to consumers about their food by requiring nutrition labels on single-ingredient raw meat and poultry products and by simplifying labeling language for raw meat and poultry products with added solutions that may not be apparent to the consumer.
- Public Health Information System, a modernized, comprehensive database about public health trends and food safety violations at the nearly 6,100 plants FSIS regulates.
As part of its multi-faceted approach to prevent foodborne illness, USDA also launched Food Safe Families, a consumer education campaign with the Ad Council, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is the first joint public service campaign to empower families to further reduce their risk of foodborne illness at home by checking their key food safety steps: clean, separate, cook, and chill. For more information, go to http://www.foodsafety.gov.
USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (800) 795-3272 (voice), or (202) 720-6382 (TDD).