FSIS advances food safety efforts in 2019

In 2019, FSIS inspected more than 164 million head of livestock and 9.83 billion poultry carcasses.

December 31, 2019

4 Min Read
FSIS advances food safety efforts in 2019

Over the past year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety & Inspection Service (FSIS) has moved forward in its goal of modernizing the agency from top to bottom while fulfilling its mission to prevent foodborne illness and protect public health, the agency said.

“It’s all about the science,” deputy undersecretary for food safety Dr. Mindy Brashears said. “Science and data inform every decision we make.”

In fiscal 2019, FSIS inspected more than 164 million head of livestock and 9.83 billion poultry carcasses. FSIS inspection program personnel also conducted 7.1 million food safety and food defense procedures across 6,500 regulated establishments to ensure that meat, poultry and processed egg products are safe and wholesome.

In fiscal 2019, FSIS said it continued its initiative to modernize operations and inspection systems.

FSIS finalized a rule that modernizes swine slaughter inspection to foster innovation in the industry and increase FSIS offline inspection tasks that have a direct impact on public health while maintaining 100% carcass-by-carcass inspection. The rule is comprised of two parts: mandatory microbial testing requirements at all swine establishments and the New Swine Slaughter Inspection System. Establishments can choose to operate under the new system, or they can remain under the traditional slaughter inspection system.

Related:A few minutes with USDA's Dr. Mindy Brashears: The most important woman in food safety

FSIS also issued a proposed rule to revise the pathogen reduction performance standards for campylobacter in not-ready-to-eat comminuted chicken and turkey products based on a microbiological method change from direct plating to enrichment because the enrichment method more effectively recovers the pathogen.

FSIS implemented several changes to enhance the surveillance of the National Residue Program, including modernization of the FSIS residue annual sampling plan, an updated residue methodology and redefining the sampling of lamb and mature sheep. In addition, FSIS began the surveillance of liquid and dry egg products for pesticide residues.

Targeting foodborne illness

FSIS continued to focus on its mission of protecting public health and preventing foodborne illness. Specifically, agency efforts focused on a revised methodology for assessing whether establishments meet applicable salmonella performance against the current performance standards for poultry products and implementation of a new salmonella categorization methodology in response to public comments.

FSIS also began calculating and publishing new estimates of the prevalence of salmonella in pork products. New collaborative work with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service to determine the presence of non-O157 Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) in pork products. FSIS also began the development of a new sampling plan for raw pork products that will be implemented in fiscal 2020.

Related:Risks, costs associated with food safety increasing

FSIS began publishing new performance standards for campylobacter in not-ready-to-eat comminuted chicken and turkey.


Much of the agency’s work is conducted in cooperation with federal, state and municipal agencies and other stakeholders. FSIS collaborated with the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and the Food & Drug Administration to meet the agency’s goal to improve coordination of federal food safety efforts and to address cross-cutting priorities for food safety data.

To ensure the safety of food produced using cell culture technology, FSIS and FDA established a joint regulatory framework for foods derived from the cells of livestock and poultry.

In coordination with CDC, FSIS began using whole-genome sequencing as the primary characterization tool for salmonella, campylobacter and E. coli in meat and poultry.

FSIS proposed and finalized a number of deregulatory actions in 2019, including eliminating redundant regulations and taking a more science-based approach to regulatory controls.

Reinspection programs

FSIS reinspects all commercial products imported to the U.S. from eligible foreign countries at official import inspection establishments.

FSIS reinspected 4 billion lb. of meat and poultry and 7.5 million lb. of processed eggs in fiscal 2019. Of this total, 5 million lb. of meat and poultry and 5,000 lb. of processed eggs were refused entry.

FSIS received requests from six countries for six initial equivalence determinations and one reinstatement.

Looking forward

In fiscal 2020, FSIS said it aims to finalize rules proposed in 2019, including the Egg Products Inspection Regulations rule. 

FSIS developed a plan in 2019 to expand testing for non-O157 STEC to all FSIS-regulated beef products. FSIS will propose this expanded testing and request comments on the plans before finalizing them during fiscal 2020.

FSIS will also continue to focus on food safety modernization, including:

  • Exploring improvements to beef slaughter inspection;

  • Expanding the chemical residue surveillance program;

  • Revising performance standards for campylobacter in comminuted chicken and turkey products based on a method change, and

  • Proposing performance standards for salmonella in raw pork cuts and raw comminuted pork products.

FSIS currently has approximately 9,000 employees, around 8,000 of whom work in federally regulated establishments, laboratories, import establishments or in-commerce facilities.

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