Food Safety:

Inspection of Domestic and Imported Meat Should Be Risk-Based

T-RCED-93-10: Published: Feb 18, 1993. Publicly Released: Feb 18, 1993.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the Food Safety and Inspection Service's (FSIS) inspection of domestic and imported meat, focusing on: (1) changes in inspection procedures for Canadian meat; (2) whether those changes adequately responded to identified problems; and (3) microbiological testing conducted on domestic and imported meat products. GAO noted that: (1) FSIS has improved Canadian meat inspection by documenting the equivalency of the U.S. and Canadian inspection systems, controlling sample selection, aligning U.S. and Canadian sampling criteria and methodology, eliminating advance notification of inspection to Canadian producers, and establishing control over Canadian meat products before inspection at inland locations; (2) there was no external, independent assessment by scientific and public health experts of the FSIS equivalency determination process; (3) inspectors relied on a product's look, smell, and feel to detect contamination, but did not test for microbial pathogens in either domestic or imported meats; (4) FSIS did not require meat plants to have microbiological testing programs, although some plants have established voluntary programs; and (5) FSIS has developed strategies for reducing meat contamination by hiring more inspectors for the short term, and revamping the entire inspection system.

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