LAS VEGAS – In a presentation at the final day of the National Meat Association’s annual convention, a food safety official with JBS USA’s beef division discussed the food safety benefits the company has seen after implementing third-party, remote video auditing (RVA) as a food-safety intervention at its Souderton, Pa. plant. Dr. John Ruby, head of technical services with JBS said the pilot project that began this past June resulted in “drastic” microbiological improvements when comparing positive tests from the first half of 2010 with the second half of the year. One slide shown during Ruby’s presentation indicated that by focusing on food-safety compliance of workers in the carcass dressing area of its Souderton plant, pathogen contamination rates decreased by more than 70%.

“I’d like to see all of our plants show that same type of improvement and I think it is possible to do that,” Ruby said. JBS plans to have its remaining beef plants up and running with RVA by April of this year, ahead of summer, when E. coli contamination is historically more likely to occur.

This past year, JBS announced it would implement third-party RVA programs to enhance food safety compliance among workers at its eight US-based beef processing plants. JBS has partnered with Mt. Kisco, NY-based Arrowsight Inc., a provider of 24-7 auditing and surveillance services, to ensure workers are complying with food-safety practices in areas of the plant where carcass contamination is most likely to occur. Using a system of strategically placed video cameras and web-based digital video recording software, trained Arrowsight workers check line workers’ to ensure they are complying with specific food-safety practices. Any non-compliance is identified by auditors and plant officials are given electronic notification of the incident along with a link to a video clip of the incident. Feedback from the remote audits are used by plant officials to improve the performance of the line workers, a practice Ruby said has been successful.

Ruby emphasized that cameras alone are not the silver bullet to improving in-plant performance. “It’s using the information captured by the cameras as feedback for the people working on the floor,” most of whom are very interested in doing their jobs correctly, he said. “You can really focus on where your areas of opportunity are and not waste resources focusing on people who are doing a great job already.”