WASHINGTON — America’s meat and poultry industry has achieved great food-safety progress in recent years, said American Meat Institute President and Chief Executive Officer J. Patrick Boyle, who was one of several industry leaders who recently testified before the House Committee on Agriculture, Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry.

Pathogenic bacteria on meat and poultry products and associated foodborne illnesses have declined markedly in the last decade, he said. Since 2000, industry has reduced the prevalence of E. coli O157:H7 in ground beef by 45% to less than 0.5%. The prevalence of Listeria monocytogenes in ready-to-eat products has been reduced by 74% to less than 0.4%. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates since 2000 illnesses caused by E. coli O157:H7 are down by 40% and listeriosis is down by 10% with much of the improvement occurring before 2000.

Illnesses from pathogens most commonly associated with meat and poultry comprise a fraction of the total foodborne illnesses and deaths in the U.S., C.D.C. data shows.

Industry supports a strong federal inspection system like the one in place at U.S.D.A., Mr. Boyle said. He added approximately 8,000 employees of U.S.D.A.’s Food Safety Inspection Service inspect approximately 6,300 domestic meat and poultry operations and an additional 2,000 federal employees provide supervision and support services, at a total cost of more than $1 billion. Plants processing live animals are inspected during all hours the plant is operating. Plants that further process meat and poultry products are inspected at least daily.

Industry is a strong advocate of a preventative approach and even petitioned U.S.D.A. to mandate Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point plans in and meat and poultry plants, Mr. Boyle pointed out.

In one year, F.S.I.S. conducts more than 80,000 microbiological tests to verify federally inspected facility production processes are under control. The agency conducts these verification tests in addition to the several million microbiological tests the industry does each year.

Federal law requires foreign countries exporting to the U.S. must have an inspection system equal to the U.S. system, he said. Thirty-three foreign counties are currently approved to ship products to the U.S.

Some steps Mr. Boyle said would help improve food safety include:

  • Focus on government inspection programs designed and implemented to improve public health
  • Continually improve mandatory H.A.C.C.P. and Standard Sanitary Operating Procedures focused on prevention versus detection
  • Fully fund government agencies to assure the safety of all food is maintained
  • Allocate resources based on the public-health risk posed by a particular food and control measures used during manufacturing and distribution to control risk
  • Set objective, achievable food-safety standards that are scientifically determined to measure food safety
  • Ensure compatibility of U.S. food-safety standards with internationally recognized standards to protect the health of consumers, ensure fair trade practices and promote coordination of food standards development by the international community.

Read Mr. Boyle’s entire testimony at: http://www.meatami.com/ht/a/GetDocumentAction/i/48885.