Meat Safety:

Inspection System's Ability to Detect Harmful Bacteria Remains Limited

T-RCED-94-123: Published: Feb 10, 1994. Publicly Released: Feb 10, 1994.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the Food Safety and Inspection Service's (FSIS) efforts to improve its meat and poultry inspection systems, focusing on: (1) the changes to the FSIS meat inspection process; (2) the effectiveness of the inspection changes; and (3) whether additional changes need to be made to protect consumers from an unsafe meat supply. GAO noted that: (1) although FSIS has made changes to its inspection system, the current inspection system still cannot identify and prevent contaminated meat from entering the nation's food supply; (2) FSIS relies primarily on sensory inspection methods that are not capable of detecting pathogens in meat and poultry which pose the greatest public health risk; (3) FSIS initiatives to improve its meat inspection system have not addressed the system's inherent weaknesses; (4) FSIS has not developed new requirements for routine microbial testing by industry or government inspectors; and (5) FSIS needs to increase the frequency of its inspections and develop a more scientific, risk-based inspection system that better protects the public from food poisoning and allows it to target its resources towards higher-risk meat and poultry products.

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