New USDA meat and poultry inspection policy will shift resources away from plants with strong food safety records and towards those considered higher risks.
Richard Raymond, Agriculture Department undersecretary for food safety, told the Associated Press, "We're just putting resources where the risk is greatest, and those plants that demonstrate excellent control will get less of our resources."
The system that will decide the risk level at different plants will take into account the plant's food safety record and what type of plant it is.
"There are certain food products that carry a higher inherent risk than others," Raymond points out.
The plan will be used in processing plants but not slaughter plants. USDA has not released a timetable for moving to the new system, but one is expected within the next few weeks.
In 2006, 7,500 USDA inspectors conducted 9.2 million inspections. Nevertheless, about 76 million Americans get sick from a foodborne illness each year, of which 325,000 are hospitalized and 5,000 die. E. coli illnesses are down 29% from last decade, but rose from 2004 to 2005.