The National Chicken Council, National Turkey Federation and U.S. Poultry and Egg Association reiterated numerous concerns that were expressed in a report released yesterday by the National Academy of Sciences' National Research Council titled, “The Potential Consequences of Public Release of Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) Establishment-Specific Data.”
The report identified a number of possible costs or unintended consequences of public release of establishment-specific data, including the financial commitment associated with designing and maintaining a useful data-disclosure system; the drawing of inappropriate conclusions as a result of misinterpretation of the data; adverse effects on international trade; the risk that proprietary or confidential information could be deduced from the data; and adverse effects on inspector performance.
“We believe that all of these concerns are valid and were not adequately addressed in the final report. They clearly merit more attention than what the committee recommended,” the groups said. “And without proper context, there is concern that this massive amount of vague information will be subject to misinterpretation and confusion that could needlessly alarm consumers and our trading partners.”
It is important to note that FSIS data may already beobtained through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Requests. Such data includes:
- Microbiological sampling and testing data (for example, testing for Escherichia coli O157:H7, Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes).
- Residue sampling and testing data (for example, testing for drug, pesticide and other chemical residues).
- Facility-specific noncompliance records (NRs) identified during routine inspection activities.
- Food-safety assessments (FSAs), evaluations of the entirety of a facility's food-safety program, including the nature and source of raw materials, processes, the environment, and all other aspects included under Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP).
- Facility-specific HACCP verifications.
- Foodborne-disease outbreak investigation closeout reports.
“A strong food safety system is the number one priority of the poultry industry,” the groups continued. “But as the report itself states, ‘It is not possible to make a direct causal link between public data access and specific food-safety improvements…'”