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easier to read and easier to complete.
Since 1985, over 360 forms have been reviewed, with over 110 identified for elimination.
Since the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1980 (P.L. 96-511) was passed, FSIS has reduced its reporting burden on the public by nearly 70 percent.
STATEMENT OF JOHN BAILAR
FOOD AND NUTRITION BOARD
NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
SUBCOMMITTEE ON OVERSIGHT OF GOVERNMENT MANAGEMENT
MAY 15, 1987
The National Research
Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee: I am Dr. John Bailar. I am a physician and statistician who specializes in public health aspects of risk assessment and risk management. I am on the faculty of the School of Public Health, Harvard University. Council's (NRC) Commission on Life Sciences has asked me to summarize the findings of the Food and Nutrition Board's Committee on the Scientific Basis of the Nation's Meat and Poultry Inspection Program. That
committee's report, entitled Meat and Poultry Inspection: The Scientific Basis of the Nation's Program was published in 1985. I was a member of that committee, I also served as Vice-chair of the NRC's Committee on Public Health Risk Assessment of Poultry Inspection Programs, which has recently completed a study in follow-up to the one that produced the 1985 report.
My statement is based on the 1985 report. The ideas, conclusions, and recommendations that I convey in this formal statement are those of the committee although I may not always identify them as such. My answers to your questions will for the most part reflect the conclusions and recommendations of the committee but will be undoubtedly flavored by my own viewpoints in some cases.
The 1985 report on Meat and Poultry Inspection was developed at the request of the Administrator of the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the Department of Agriculture. Hereafter I will refer to the Service as
FSIS and its parent agency as USDA. The Administrator of FSIS asked the National Research Council to appoint a committee to provide a scientific appraisal of the ability of the current inspection system, including some recently introduced changes intended to improve public health protection, and to propose ways to improve the program.
The committee recognized that the inspection process as a whole has important objectives other than health, including accurate labeling, protection of the aesthetic qualities of fresh and processed meat and poultry, and humane slaughter. The committee's charge, however, was to examine the "scientific basis of the nation's program," and we interpreted that charge to limit our direct concerns to health. In practice, that means biological and chemical hazards. The committee found that American consumers have broad access to meat and poultry that is wholesome and safe, but that inspection could be improved by new techniques for detecting microbial and chemical contaminants and by revised inspection practices that incorporate the principles of risk assessment and risk management.
Traditional inspection procedures date to the turn of the century, when there was reason for genuine concern about the health of animals used for food products and the conditions under which they were
slaughtered. Federal meat inspection activities were organized to remove obviously diseased animals from the food supply and to assure that only healthy animals, slaughtered under sanitary conditions, reach the market place. The general responsibilities of FSIS include responsibility for inspecting slaughtered animals, ensuring the cleanliness of meat and poultry plants, monitoring contaminants in meat and poultry products, and ensuring the accuracy of labeling. Inspectors examine animals before, during, and after slaughter for physical injury or signs of disease. In the critical phase of postmortem inspection, inspectors rely primarily on organoleptic techniques; that is, observation by sight, smell, and touch, to examine some 127 million head of cattle, sheep, and hogs, plus more than four and a half billion chickens and turkeys each year.
These procedures have served the purpose for which they were originally intended: to detect grossly diseased animals and damaged products and tag them for removal from the food supply. However, they can have little role in the detection and control of the most important health risks of the present, microbial and chemical contaminants.
part because of the success of that original program and the general good health of food animals, the conditions under which they are slaughtered and processed are no longer the major public problems they were some decades ago.
I would now like to focus on the major conclusions and
recommendations of the committee.
The committee found that the meat and poultry inspection program of FSIS has in general been effective in ensuring that apparently healthy
animals are slaughtered in clean and sanitary environments and that defective animals and parts detected at slaughter are removed from the food supply. FSIS has clearly reduced risks to public health from conditions that can be observed during antemortem and postmortem inspection and that can be evaluated during processing. However, substantial challenges continue to confront the agency. Some aspects of the inspection system are poorly defined in terms of objectives relevant to public health. A risk-based allocation of resources, supported by modern technology and a systematic evaluation of the program, would be
It is well established that species of Salmonella and Campylobacter cause diseases that are transmissible to humans through the consumption of meat and poultry products. Current postmortem inspection methods are not designed to detect diffuse contamination with these or other organisms, and the committee recommended that FSIS intensify its current efforts to control and eliminate contamination with microorganisms that cause disease in humans. Such efforts should include evaluation of rapid diagnositic procedures for detecting microorganisms, especially species of Salmonella and Campylobacter, and education of the general public, health care personnel, educators, and extension service workers in the safe handling of meat and poultry.
The committee commended recent progress by FSIS in protecting the public against exposure to hazardous chemicals in meat and poultry, but found that FSIS's residue monitoring program needs to be further expanded and improved to ensure maximum protection of the public health. In particular, the committee questioned the adequacy of the total sample size used for routine monitoring, the procedures for sampling animals and