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    Subject Term: "Meat inspection"

    3 publications with a total of 17 open recommendations
    Director: Cindy Brown Barnes
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    7 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health should take additional steps to encourage workers to disclose sensitive concerns during OSHA inspections of meat and poultry plants; for example, by considering additional off-site interviews or exploring other options to obtain information anonymously. (Recommendation 1)

    Agency: Department of Labor: Occupational Safety and Health Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: OSHA did not state whether it concurred with this recommendation. The agency noted that it fully supports the idea of continuous improvement of its processes that would expand its ability to identify and address hazards before an injury, illness, or fatality occurs. However, OSHA noted that it would be challenging to conduct offsite interviews in terms of witness cooperation, resources, and inspector safety. We continue to believe that OSHA should take steps to enhance reporting by meat and poultry workers. Our report describes meat and poultry workers' reluctance to report injuries, illnesses, and hazards to OSHA because of their fear of employer retaliation. OSHA's Field Operations Manual highlights the importance of a free and open exchange of information between OSHA inspectors and employees for conducting effective inspections. Conducting additional offsite interviews is one way to encourage employee reporting. However, there may be alternative additional steps OSHA could take to better position it to encourage workers to disclose sensitive concerns, consistent with this recommendation.
    Recommendation: The Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health should gather more information, such as by asking workers during meat and poultry plant inspections, to determine the extent to which bathroom access is a problem and how to address any identified issues. (Recommendation 2)

    Agency: Department of Labor: Occupational Safety and Health Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: OSHA neither agreed nor disagreed with this recommendation. The agency stated it could not commit to routinely asking about bathroom access at each meat and poultry inspection. OSHA stated that each inspection requires a flexible approach to address unique worksite hazards. Also, they do not routinely ask questions about any potential hazards that go beyond the scope of a complaint inspection, unless those hazards are in plain sight. However, our report notes that OSHA does require inspectors at poultry plants to consistently investigate other specific hazards, such as ergonomics hazards. We highlight the challenges meat and poultry workers may face gaining timely access to bathrooms. However, workers might not volunteer access information to OSHA. We identified a mismatch between the concerns we heard from workers and the problems reported by OSHA. Better understanding the scope of bathroom access problems would better position OSHA to respond appropriately. Further, OSHA may choose to address this issue without routinely asking workers about bathroom access, such as by selectively querying workers based on criteria determined by the agency.
    Recommendation: The Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health should update its guidance for employers on how to manage their health units to address the challenges of managing these units. (Recommendation 3)

    Agency: Department of Labor: Occupational Safety and Health Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: OSHA stated that it intends to revisit its guidance. We will close this recommendation when the agency updates its guidance.
    Recommendation: The Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health should work with FSIS to assess the implementation of the MOU and make any needed changes to ensure improved collaboration; and set specific timeframes for periodic evaluations of the MOU. (Recommendation 4)

    Agency: Department of Labor: Occupational Safety and Health Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: OSHA stated that meat and poultry plants provide an opportunity for the two agencies to work collaboratively to identify employee hazards and promote safety and health, but the agency did not comment specifically on this recommendation.
    Recommendation: The FSIS Administrator should work with OSHA to assess the implementation of the MOU and make any needed changes to ensure improved collaboration; and set specific timeframes for periodic evaluations of the MOU. (Recommendation 5)

    Agency: Department of Agriculture: Food Safety and Inspection Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: FSIS stated that it already has directives in place to recognize and report hazards affecting FSIS employees, and acknowledged that the MOU was designed to additionally have FSIS employees report hazards affecting plant employees due to the regular presence of its inspectors in plants. FSIS noted that in collaborating with OSHA, FSIS will need to ensure its primary mission is not compromised by undertaking activities that take time and resources away from its food safety inspection responsibilities. We continue to believe that strengthening the MOU and developing a mechanism to regularly evaluate it would help ensure that the goals of the MOU are met, and that leveraging FSIS's presence in plants provides the federal government with a cost-effective opportunity to protect worker safety and health.
    Recommendation: The FSIS Administrator should develop a process to regularly share the worker safety information it collects during its review of new chemicals with FSIS inspectors, plant management, OSHA, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). (Recommendation 6)

    Agency: Department of Agriculture: Food Safety and Inspection Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: FSIS stated that the agency already has a process for sharing chemical safety information with its inspectors. However, FSIS has not provided us with evidence that it has shared the worker safety information it collects related to new chemicals, such as safety information that is specific for dilution levels and conditions of use at plants, as noted in the report. FSIS also stated that it would take certain steps to share information about approval of chemicals with other agencies such as OSHA and NIOSH, but the steps identified did not include sharing worker safety information. Incorporating worker safety information would further help enhance this information sharing. FSIS further stated that some of the information collected during its review of new chemicals may be proprietary.
    Recommendation: The Director of NIOSH should consider including in the agency's research agenda a proposal for examining the extent of peracetic acid's use in combination with other chemicals in meat and poultry plants, and any safety and health hazards these combinations may pose to workers. (Recommendation 7)

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services: Public Health Service: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
    Status: Open

    Comments: HHS agreed with this recommendation.
    Director: Steve D. Morris
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To guide the nation's efforts to improve the federal food safety oversight system and address ongoing fragmentation, the appropriate entities within the EOP should, in consultation with relevant federal agencies and other stakeholders, develop a national strategy that states the purpose of the strategy, establishes high-level sustained leadership, identifies resource requirements, monitors progress, and identifies short- and long-term actions to improve the food safety oversight system.

    Agency: Executive Office of the President
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of February 2017, the agency had not acted on our recommendation.
    Director: John Neumann
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    9 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To better inform users of the annual monitoring report about the frequency and scope of pesticide tolerance violations, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of FDA to disclose in the agency's annual pesticide monitoring program report which pesticides with EPA-established tolerances the agency did not test for in its pesticide monitoring program and the potential effect of not testing for those pesticides.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: In February 2015, FDA posted a report summarizing the results of its Fiscal Year 2012 Pesticide Monitoring Program. The report identified which pesticides the agency tested for in FY 2012. However, the report did not identify which pesticides with EPA-established tolerances were not tested for, nor did it discuss the potential effect of not testing for those pesticides. As of December 2016, FDA had not provided an updated status for this recommendation. It plans to provide a status update in early calendar year 2017.
    Recommendation: To gather and report reliable, nationally representative data on pesticide residue violations, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of FDA to design and implement a statistically valid sampling methodology that would enable the agency, within existing resources, to gather nationally representative pesticide residue incidence and level data for both domestically produced and imported foods, or justify statistically the use of a nonprobability method that can measure the estimation error. In designing either approach, FDA should consider the extent to which the benefits exceed the costs.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: In February 2015, FDA issued a report summarizing the results of its pesticide monitoring program for Fiscal Year 2012. This report followed by about 4 months the issuance of our report, GAO-15-38, in October 2014. The FDA report stated that the sampling methodology used in FY 2012 was not statistically based. However, in light of our recommendation that FDA design and implement a statistically valid sampling methodology, the agency could have used its February 2015 report to announce its plan to develop such a methodology for use in the future, but it did not do so. As of December 2016, FDA had not provided an updated status for this recommendation. It plans to provide a status update in early calendar year 2017.
    Recommendation: To gather and report reliable, nationally representative data on pesticide residue violations, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of FDA to report the nationally representative incidence and level data in its annual pesticide monitoring reports, including disclosing the limits of its chosen sampling methodology.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of December 2016, FDA had not provided an updated status for this recommendation. It plans to provide a status update in early calendar year 2017.
    Recommendation: To evaluate and refine its targeted pesticide compliance and enforcement monitoring program, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of FDA to use the incidence and level data to assess the effectiveness of FDA's targeted pesticide compliance and enforcement monitoring program, including its use of the Predictive Risk-based Evaluation for Dynamic Import Compliance Targeting targeting tool for imported foods, by comparing the rate of violations detected through the program to the overall rate of pesticide residue violations within the domestic and imported food supplies.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of December 2016, FDA had not provided an updated status for this recommendation. It plans to provide a status update in early calendar year 2017.
    Recommendation: To evaluate and refine its targeted pesticide compliance and enforcement monitoring program, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of FDA to identify any types of domestic and imported foods that are at high risk for pesticide residue tolerance violations to improve the ability of its targeted pesticide compliance and enforcement monitoring program to consistently identify food likely to have violations.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of December 2016, FDA had not provided an updated status for this recommendation. It plans to provide a status update in early calendar year 2017.
    Recommendation: To better inform the public about the frequency and scope of pesticide tolerance violations, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the FSIS Administrator to disclose in the agency's annual pesticide monitoring program report which pesticides with EPA-established tolerances the agency did not test for in its National Residue Program and the potential effect of not testing for those pesticides.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: In March 2015, FSIS issued its Fiscal Year 2015 Residue Sampling Plan for the National Residue Program for Meat, Poultry, and Egg Products. The sampling plan contained information on the pesticides that FSIS would include in its residue testing program. However, the sampling plan did not identify pesticides with EPA-established tolerances that FSIS did not plan to include in its testing program. In December 2015, FSIS issued its Fiscal Year 2014 Residue Sample Results for its national residue program. The agency's report on its results did not identify pesticides with EPA-established tolerances that were not included in its testing program, nor did it report on the potential effect of not testing for those pesticides. In June 2016, FSIS issued its sampling plan for Fiscal Year 2016. The sampling plan contained information on the pesticides that FSIS would include in its residue testing program. However, the sampling plan did not identify pesticides with EPA-established tolerances that FSIS did not plan to include in its testing program. The FSIS sampling results for Fiscal Year 2015 were not available as of December 2016.
    Recommendation: To better meet federal standards and best practices for statistical surveys, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the AMS Administrator to provide better documentation of the survey methods used in its Pesticide Data Program in the program's annual reports by providing more complete information on the sampling methodology the agency uses, such as how it identifies and selects states, food distribution centers, and commodities for pesticide residue testing, and include measures of sampling error for reported estimates.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Agricultural Marketing Service published its 2015 Pesticide Data Program annual report in November 2016. As with earlier reports, this report does not provide sufficient documentation of the survey methods used in the program. In particular, the report does not provide complete information on the sampling methodology the agency used, such as how it identified and selected states, food distribution centers, and commodities for pesticide residue testing. Further, it does not include measures of sampling error for reported estimates.
    Recommendation: To better meet federal standards and best practices for statistical surveys, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the AMS Administrator to provide better documentation of the survey methods used in its Pesticide Data Program in the program's annual reports by reporting on the extent to which its survey covers commodities in the U.S. food supply and any limitations associated with its survey methodology.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Agricultural Marketing Service published its 2015 Pesticide Data Program annual report in November 2016. This report has a new section titled Sampling Limitations. In that section, the agency acknowledges that the total number of distribution centers and terminal markets within the participating states is difficult to establish because existing sites may go out of business or merge and new sites may open during the course of the year. Despite this limitation, the agency concludes that the sites selected in the program are representative of all sites in these states. However, the agency has not provided sufficient documentation in the report to support the claim that its data are representative of conditions across the country for commodities in the U.S. food supply.
    Recommendation: To better meet federal standards and best practices for statistical surveys, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the AMS Administrator to provide better documentation of the survey methods used in its Pesticide Data Program in the program's annual reports by describing methods users should employ to analyze the data, including obtaining margins of error for making generalizeable estimates of pesticide residues in commodities.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Agricultural Marketing Service published its 2015 Pesticide Data Program annual report in November 2016. This report does not describe methods users should employ to analyze the data, including obtaining margins of error for making generalizeable estimates of pesticide residues in commodities.