The third recommendation is that USDA should abandon a new policy that plants, which had less than half the acceptable rate of Salmonella in their last two testing periods, will not be scheduled for another testing period for 12 to 24 months.
“We have finite resources and only a certain amount of money for Salmonella testing and plant inspections,” Raymond explains. “We have to spend it wisely and get the best bang for the buck. If I have a poultry producer who consistently comes in under 50 percent, why should they be tested every seven to eight months? I trust the plant that consistently comes in under 50 percent because that is where they want to be. If I have another plant that fails every other Salmonella set, I want to put my resources where the risk is the greatest and to get them into compliance. Risk-based inspections. I believe strongly in that.”
As far as the Food and Water Watch report, Raymond says it is very helpful to have external watchdogs.
“Anytime we get a report, it helps us look harder internally. We have listened and changed. One example is USDA policy to only test for Salmonella during a plant’s first shift. It doesn’t measure the prevalence; there can be a different result during the second shift, he says. “We welcome their comments and meet monthly to discuss these types of issue.”
However, he does not feel that the report has the best value as it was written. “They went way back in history,” Raymond comments. “It is more important to look forward; 1999 data is just confusing. They should have concentrated on last year’s data and made the report more pertinent.”
Also, he wishes that Food and Water Watch would have come to the USDA directly during a 60 day period for public comments on Salmonella testing plans. “They did not submit the report through the proper channels or normal procedure of public opinion,” he adds. –FQ