WASHINGTON – Ongoing problems with the Pathogen Reduction/Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points program have not been adequately addressed, and legal challenges have interfered with further improvement, according to an in-depth analysis of the program by Consumer Federation of America.

“USDA needs to provide better assurance that plants are reducing contamination of meat and poultry products and that the agency is effectively enforcing its regulations,” said Chris Waldrop, director of the Food Policy Institute at Consumer Federation of America. “Enforceable standards would allow the agency to take decisive action when a problem is first identified rather than after an outbreak has already occurred.”

The report cites two specific issues:

• Plants have failed to develop effective food safety plans, while the US Department of Agriculture has failed to adequately identify problems with those plans.

• Plants have faced few consequences for repeat citations for food safety violations.

“Gaps in the oversight system can put consumers at unnecessary risk from foodborne illness from meat and poultry products,” the Consumer Federation of America said in its report. “FSIS can make many changes to improve its program under current law.”

Consumer Federation of America recommends the Food Safety and Inspection Service:

1. Develop a better way to evaluate plants’ HACCP plans;

2. Require plants to identify pathogens most commonly associated with particular meat and poultry products as hazards likely to occur and address them in their HACCP plans;

3. Establish clear procedures and repercussions for reoccurring violations;

4. Frequently and routinely update performance standards that are based on improving public health outcomes;

5. Seek authority from Congress to set and enforce performance standards for pathogen reduction; and

6. Improve FSIS sampling programs to target riskiest facilities and products.

The full report is available on the Consumer Federation of America website.