WASHINGTON – The US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service and the Agriculture Research Service (ARS) are being urged by the American Meat Institute, in partnership with a number of industry associations, to strongly support a preventive approach to assure food safety, which includes additional scientific documents referred to as “safe harbors” for the meat and poultry industry.

“These documents are essential to the meat and poultry industry, especially the small and very small processors, who may not have the resources, facilities or the expertise to perform the type of food safety validation these documents provide,” wrote the organizations.

The need for additional scientific documents was made even more apparent when the FSIS shared its updated thoughts on validation within the current definition of a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point system in March 2010.

ARS and FSIS are being called upon by the organizations to collaborate to develop additional scientific documents similar to the FSIS’s 1999 Appendix A-Compliance Guidelines for Meeting Lethality Performance Standards for Certain Meat and Poultry Products and Appendix B-Compliance Guidelines for Cooling Heat-Treated Meat and Poultry Products (Stabilization). Appendices A and B have provided food-safety guidance to the meat and poultry industry.

“There is a definite need for more safe harbors such as Appendices A and B that are applicable to a broader segment of the meat and poultry industry,” they wrote. “These new documents should be developed for a variety of meat and poultry products and take into consideration differences in product composition like fat, protein and sodium levels, which may affect time-temperature lethality relationships. This type of research is appropriate for ARS and FSIS as it fits under both agencies’ missions and addresses the prevention principle as outlined by the White House Food Safety Working Group.

“We believe a collaborative effort between ARS and FSIS to develop additional scientific food safety documents will greatly improve the safety of meat and poultry products,” the letter continued. “The undersigned organizations are willing to work with the agencies to identify the greatest research needs as it is important that the research topics have broad application to food safety efforts within the meat and poultry industry.”