WASHINGTON – Protecting public health and preventing foodborne illnesses was named the primary mission goal of the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the US Dept. of Agriculture, the agency said in its 2017-2021 Strategic Plan

The plan details how FSIS will go about accomplishing its mission. Foodborne illness prevention led the agency’s list of priorities and represents the agency’s day-to-day work. To accomplish this goal, FSIS says it will:

  • Drive compliance with food safety statutes and regulations;
  • Reduce hazards in food by influencing the behavior of establishments and increasing the percentage of products sampled by FSIS for microbial or chemical hazards;
  • Improve food safety at in-commerce facilities using a risk-based approach;
  • Enhance response to outbreaks through improved communication;
  • Sustain progress in food defense; and
  • Increase public awareness of recalls, foodborne illness and adoption of safe food practices.

In the introduction to the report, Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Alfred Almanza said, “The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) 2017–2021 Strategic Plan builds on prior successes and reflects emerging issues that FSIS faces in ensuring that the food products we regulate are safe to eat. By using cutting-edge yet practical science, enhanced data capabilities, and our employees’ skills and expertise, we will continue to modernize and be more effective in meeting our public health mission.”

Another goal highlighted in the Strategic Plan includes modernizing inspection procedures, policies and using innovative and scientific approaches to enhance food safety. Steps the agency intends to take toward achieving this objective include increasing awareness of humane handling best practices, enhancing efforts in rapid in-field screening and whole genome sequencing and using data to facilitate inspection task scheduling across processing facilities, among other measures.

Finally, FSIS plans to improve recruitment and retention for “mission-critical positions” and to enhance training and development opportunities in several managerial, inspection and technical areas in order to achieve operational excellence.

“I’m proud of the work that has gone into the 2017-2021 FSIS Strategic Plan from employees throughout the agency,” Almanza said. “In addition to establishing a clear foundation for our long-range and day-to-day operations, the Plan positions the agency to anticipate future needs and challenges. We will continue to engage and empower our employees as we maintain and further build one team, with one purpose, working diligently every day to protect public health by preventing foodborne illness.”