MOBILE, Ala. – “Modernization is at the core of everything we do,” Paul Kiecker, deputy administrator for the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) told attendees at the opening session of the American Association of Meat Processors (AAMP) Convention and Exposition in Mobile, Alabama. “As a regulatory agency we work closely with the industry partners to make sure we’re putting safe food on everyone’s tables, every day.”

According to Kiecker, FSIS is working diligently to modernize processes and procedures at the agency. “We’re asking ourselves, ‘What is it that we can do using science-based strategies to decrease pathogen contamination?’”

Science and technology advances are helping FSIS to do a better job at detecting pathogens in the processing environment and in the meat and poultry products. “One of the key modernizations is the requirement that all establishments conduct sampling to make sure the processors are working to control foodborne pathogens,” Kiecker said.

The number of recalls involving adulterated products has increased over recent years. “FSIS has intensified our efforts to support industry in establishing effective programs to address customer complaints if foreign materials are found in products,” Kiecker said. FSIS issued guidance on how to address customer complaints related to foreign materials in meat and poultry products.

“Developing systems to effectively detect and respond to these contamination events is necessary to maintain consumer trust in the meat and poultry products that they serve to their families,” Kiecker added. “Ultimately, the most important goal is that the products that are contaminated with foreign materials do not remain in commerce.”

Speaking to AAMP attendees, Kiecker reiterated that FSIS is putting more emphasis on providing outreach to small and very small plant processors. “In our effort to modernize we have not lost sight of the fact that the majority of the plants that we regulate are small and very small establishments,” Kiecker said. “In fact, 90 percent of the 6,000 federally inspected plants are small and very small plants. We are committed to ensuring that they have the tools, the guidance and resources to comply with the food safety regulations.

“We want to hear what your concerns are,” he continued. “If you have concerns or think we can do better, we want to hear from you.”

Kiecker reminded the audience that as members of the meat and poultry industry, everyone in the room shares the same goals of feeding America.

“Secretary Purdue has a motto – ‘Do right and feed everyone,’” Kiecker added. “Mindy Brashears, deputy undersecretary for food safety says for FSIS the motto should be, ‘Do right and feed everyone – safely.’”