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.