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On December 10th, I praised the introduction of the new ‘Hold and Test’ policy announced that day by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) while, at the same time, lamenting its limitations. And I asked eFoodAlert readers to respond to a survey on what FSIS should do to improve food safety.

Here are the results of that survey:

  • Mandate ‘hold and test’ for all meat and poultry processors: 35%
  • Add Salmonella to the list of beef adulterants: 21%
  • Increase USDA’s sampling frequency at meat and poultry establishments: 19%
  • Test every shipment of meat or poultry imported into the USA: 22%

Three readers submitted their own suggestions, which were:

  • Publish in stores for customers to view
  • Fruits and veggies need HOLD too
  • Ensure meat and poultry used for pet food is completely safe as well.

I thank everyone who took the time to respond to the poll, especially, those who submitted their own suggestions. I have long thought that giving maximum publicity to recalls – including posting recall information in stores – would both improve the effectiveness of recalls and encourage food manufacturers to undertake preventative measures in order to avoid the adverse publicity that such recall notices would mean.

I also endorse completely the extension of ‘hold and test’ to all foods, including perishable produce. As I’ve stated in the past, current lab methods provide fast answers. And the tests continue to improve as kit manufacturers compete to develop and market the fastest possible lab tests. Finally, as the human companion of a ten-year-old Australian Labradoodle, I am always mindful of the importance of ensuring the safety of ingredients used in the manufacture of pet food.

Since my December 10th post, there have been at least two more recalls that illustrate the value of ‘hold and test’ as a fundamental food safety policy.

  • On December 14, 2012, Ocean Beauty Seafoods LLC recalled two brands of Nova Cold Smoked Salmon after “…internal testing by the company revealed the presence of Listeria monocytogenes in samples…” of the recalled products. The Nova Salmon was imported into the USA from Chile.
  • On December 28, 2012, the French cheesemaker Fromagerie de Jussac recalled nearly two months worth of cheese production after Listeria monocytogenes was found in “certain lots” of nearly twenty varieties of its cheeses. The cheeses were sold in France and were exported to a number of countries, including: Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Lebanon, Spain, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and Vietnam.

Although no illnesses were reported in connection with either of these recalls, there is no question whatsoever that releasing food into the retail market before test results are available places consumers at risk unnecessarily. If the food industry and its regulators make just one resolution for the New Year, it should be to ‘Hold and Test’ all batches of finished product.