USDA will hold a public meeting on Nov. 9 to seek input on pre-harvest pathogen control strategies designed to reduce the likelihood that beef will be contaminated with E.Coli and salmonella bacteria during the slaughter process. Food Safety Under Secretary Elisabeth Hagen says the goal of the meeting is to identify and develop cost-effective food safety practices for cattle.
"We think we have to be looking at food safety all the way through," Hagen said. "We are not looking to go on the farm, we are not looking to regulate producers at FSIS, but everything that happens on the farm impacts what we do. It impacts the amount of risk that has to be handled throughout the system, so we know we have a huge stake in improving or finding avenues to improve pre-harvest food safety."
Pre-harvest interventions that can eliminate fecal shedding of enteric pathogens have yet to be discovered. However, according to FSIS current research suggests that at least two pre-harvest, interventions - certain probiotics and vaccines - have the potential to be effective in reducing fecal shedding in cattle.
In remarks to food safety stakeholders in Washington, Hagen said most of the producers USDA has talked to understand their importance in the overall food safety system.
"There are constraints and we want to make sure that the technologies that we're encouraging or asking them to employ are going to make food safer," Hagen said. "We want to make sure they are feasible in the various producer environments and we want to make sure that the costs are manageable as well so we've had a very good dialogue during the past year on this issue."
The condition of cattle entering processing plants and at slaughter and the pathogen contamination rates on their hides and elsewhere affect the ability to mitigate public health risk at slaughter and through the rest of the food system. The day-long summit on Nov. 9 will be hosted by a trio of USDA agencies - the Food Safety and Inspection Service, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the Agricultural Research Service.