Salmonella – all day, every day

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USDA-FSIS and the broiler industry have been in the news a lot lately.  Last week there was this:

Salmonella Action Plan

Which is 86% broiler related, most of the rest turkey and then, bam, right there in the middle, is one small paragraph talking about hogs.  Not sure if they were trying to hide it or just didn’t know where to put it.  Either way, it seems FSIS is trying to drag pigs into the never-ending Salmonella Performance Standard adjustments.  All in an attempt to make things better for consumers – or at least make consumers think FSIS is trying…

Then today this:

Senators ask Vilsack for HIMP Implementation Date

This letter reminds us all that it has been 14 years since HIMP was first introduced.  In that time the initial 25 plants have had the opportunity to control their line speeds, allow their employees to inspect and sort the birds and benefit from all the freedom those activities allow them.  Not that it’s been a walk in the park.  Far from it.  These plants have been criticized, over-evaluated and challenged.  They have also led the industry in innovation and responsibility.  These plants have helped pave the way for all plants to better control their operations and for USDA to become more integral in the food safety process – actually walking the floor and looking at handling practices.

I find it hard to believe that 14 years later we’re still waiting for full implementation.  USDA is nothing if not a slow moving vote.  And now there is questioning how committed the industry is to continuing to improve the Salmonella Performance Numbers.  I have little issue with FSIS raising the bar, its what makes us better as an industry.  But I do take quite a bit of offense at some of the postures in the Salmonella Action Plan.  The largest of which is the contention that a major reason why industry has slowed in improvement is that their names are no longer published if the plant fails a sample set.  To quote “Data collected by the Agency since then, however, do not show continuous improvement in industry performance, and FSIS believes that making more information about the process control performance of these establishments available will provide a valuable incentive for industry to improve process control.”  Hmmm…….

So Salmonella will take center stage for the next while.  Most, if not all, success stories will be tied to whether the industry and/or FSIS can publish numbers that indicate continued improvement.  Other news will be lost in the shuffle, a shame really as the industry is both doing great things and has challenging things they need to focus on.  Pathogen control (not just Salmonella) is important.  But so are many other things and I fear a one trick pony will not help the industry advance.