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Auditors want tighter sanitation enforcement

6/22/2000-Auditors said Wednesday that the Agriculture Department needs to tighten its enforcement of sanitation standards in meat and poultry plants and require processors to do more testing for deadly microbes. USDA's switch to a science-based inspection system four years ago is improving meat safety, but the agency "reduced its oversight beyond what was prudent and necessary for the protection of the consumer," according to report by the department's inspector general. The new inspection system requires companies to identify potential hazards in slaughterhouses and processing plants, and implement controls for foodborne pathogens. Previously, companies relied on USDA inspectors to find contaminated. The inspectors' job now is to ensure that the plants are following their sanitation plans and to do some microbial testing. Last month, President Clinton announced that the department would require processors to start testing for Listeria. USDA officials are considering tighter standards for E. coli.



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