Congresswoman Challenges USDA Risk-based Meat Inspection

Chairwoman of House agricultural appropriations subcommittee questions risk-based meat inspection; turkey industry backs the proposed system.

USDA's proposed risk-based meat inspection system should not be implemented until a rulemaking process and better data are in place, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D.-Conn., said at a hearing Thursday.

The risk-based system, which USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service hopes to implement at meat processing plants sometime in late summer, would shift inspection resources away from plants with strong safety records and towards problem areas.

DeLauro, chairwoman of the House agricultural appropriations subcommittee, doesn't think FSIS is ready to implement the system, though. "While I am very supportive of the concept of considering risk when regulating public health issues, a RBI (risk based inspection) system should be based on meaningful scientific data in order to rank product risk and determine establishment risk. It seems to me that USDA currently lacks this data and that moving forward with this system right now would be misguided and potentially dangerous...We know that even the meat industry has expressed concern about the timing of the plan and is urging USDA to slow down."

The National Turkey Federation expressed support for risk-based inspections in a statement Thursday. The group's director of scientific and regulatory affairs says NTF supports the system because it relies on scientifically based criteria.

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