NCBA highlights industry's successful beef safety efforts
Group urges Congress to provide necessary resources for effective implementation of regulations
National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) Senior Vice President of Research, Education and Innovation Bo Reagan testified today during the House Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry hearing to review federal food safety systems at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Reagan, an NCBA member and chairman of the Beef Industry Food Safety Council (BIFSCo), highlighted the role of the U.S. beef industry in producing the most affordable, nutritious, and safest food supply in the world. Since 1993, cattle producers have invested more than $27 million in beef safety research, and the beef industry as a whole spends approximately $350 million every year in beef safety.
"Above all, safety is a non-competitive issue for the beef industry," said Reagan. "As an industry, we continue to remain committed to a broad, coordinated effort to solve pathogen issues by developing industry-wide, science- and risk-based strategies to address safety challenges."
The following is an excerpt from Reagan's remarks as prepared:
"Everyone plays an important role in the safety of food. All beef is subject to strict government oversight and everyone who plays a role in the production chain is committed to producing safe beef products. Every meat processing facility undergoes daily, on-going USDA inspections by the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). Inspectors are in meat processing facilities daily performing their inspection duties as well as reviewing Hazardous Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) plans.
"It's important to note that HACCP plans were pro-actively developed by the food industry as a method to identify the potential hazards and then to prevent them. In 1996, FSIS enacted a rule requiring HACCP plans for all beef processing facilities. The HACCP program is successful as it focuses on process controls rather than testing as a means to protecting public health--you cannot test your way to safety, as you must focus on the process and the controls that are in place to reduce potential hazards.
"On the research, promotion and education side of the beef industry--in my role at NCBA I have the privilege to oversee beef safety research, consumer education and the development of new beef products. Throughout the years, there have been several opportunities for the beef industry and USDA to create partnerships on beef safety research. This collaborative effort is vital as USDA and the industry are able to leverage dollars and utilize the scientific expertise of USDA's Agricultural Research Service's (ARS) scientists to ensure safety challenges and knowledge gaps are being addressed proactively. It is imperative that USDA continues and increases ARS funding of food safety research. In order to achieve the goal of food safety, we have to understand the science of the pathogens and the interventions that may be used to control them or their environment.
"As the food safety policy discussions continue, we encourage Congress to work with FSIS to focus on the resources needed to effectively implement the science- and risk-based regulations that are currently in place. Just as important is the need for employee training and the communication of any new regulatory changes to FSIS inspectors in the field so that there is not any confusion or misinterpretation of the law. We realize that communicating regulatory changes to personnel throughout the country is a challenge, but this is an area of concern for the beef industry.
"With regards to small and very-small operations, there is a greater need of information and resources from USDA to be provided for these small businesses to utilize. We encourage USDA to continue and increase their outreach efforts to these small businesses.
"Lastly, consumers will always play an important role to ensure that their food is safe. The beef industry has created numerous resources like safeandsavory160.com for consumers to learn more about the proper storage, handling and cooking of beef products. Any assistance the federal government can provide to ensure that consumers learn more about their important role in food safety and the educational resources that are available for their use would be appreciated."