The U.S. should require meat and poultry slaughter facilities to collect better information on the status of animals and flocks, and regularly monitor data on plant performance, says “Meat and Poultry Inspection 2.0,” a new report from The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) that compares U.S. meat and poultry inspection practices with those in five other countries that recently made changes to their meat and inspection programs: Australia, Denmark, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Sweden.
None of the five countries deploys inspectors to every meat and poultry processing plant on a daily basis, as the U.S. does. But the report noted that the U.S. could benefit from practices used in other countries, including comprehensive scientific assessments to evaluate existing meat inspection approaches and alternatives for modernization, more real-time analysis of results, and sharing of data collected relative to meat and poultry production and testing, and incorporation of food chain information and comprehensive data management and review into the meat and poultry inspection system.
The report pointed to Denmark’s experience in controlling the prevalence of Salmonella, which has declined from 30.8 cases per 100,000 people in 1988 to zero cases in 2012. Similarly, Salmonella rates in Danish broiler flocks declined from greater than 65 percent in 1988 to 0.8 percent in 2012.
“The government tested flocks during processing, and poultry farmers and slaughter and processing plants developed better control programs in response,” notes CSPI food safety director Caroline Smith DeWaal.
“While CSPI supports modernizing meat and poultry inspection, USDA has adopted an incomplete solution without the scientific backing necessary to assure consumers that poultry will carry fewer hazards, like Salmonella and Campylobacter,” DeWaal says. “Several other countries have adopted fundamental reforms, like regular monitoring for Salmonella, better information-sharing from the farm to the factory, and processing steps that reduce the spread of hazards between different animals and flocks.”