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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Food Safety and Inspection Service's (FSIS) meat and poultry inspection system, focusing on whether: (1) FSIS effectively uses its resources to ensure food safety; (2) meat and poultry plants have programs to test for microorganisms; and (3) the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) quality control concept is an effective approach for ensuring food safety.

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Matter for Congressional Consideration

Matter Status
Congress should revise the meat and poultry acts to provide FSIS with the flexibility and discretion to target its inspection resources to the most serious food safety risks.
Closed - Not Implemented

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Agriculture 1. To improve the safety of meat and poultry, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator, FSIS, to develop a mandatory HACCP system that includes specific requirements for microbial testing and guidelines for determining when microbial test results warrant action by the plant.
Closed - Implemented
Final regulations to strengthen the meat and poultry inspection system and develop improved methods to detect and control microbial contamination were issued on July 6, 1996.
Food Safety and Inspection Service 2. The Administrator, FSIS, should assist meat and poultry plants in the development of their microbial testing programs by, among other things, disseminating information on the programs already in operation.
Closed - Implemented
In July 1996, the President signed new meat and poultry regulations that required the use of Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) systems and microbial testing. As part of the new regulations, FSIS provided detailed information on microbial performance criteria and standards, including the role of microbial testing in its food safety strategy, the rationale for using E.coli and Salmonella tests, baseline values, sampling frequencies, and analytical methodologies. In July 1997, FSIS announced a second round of meetings with establishment owners and operators to be held between September and December 1997. The meetings are aimed at seeking feedback on meat and poultry plant information needs and providing technical information to assist in implementation of HACCP and microbial testing.

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