T1-04 A Regulatory Agency Model for Identifying and Triaging Emerging Food Safety Issues: Best Practices and Lessons Learned

Sunday, July 26, 2015: 9:15 AM
C124 (Oregon Convention Center)
Alexander Domesle, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, DC
Nate Bauer, U.S. Department of Agriculture, College Station, TX
Denise R. Eblen, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, DC
Stephanie Defibaugh-Chavez, U.S. Food and Drug Administration-CFSAN, Washington, DC
Introduction: As the public health agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) ensures that the nation’s commercial supply of meat, poultry, and egg products is safe, wholesome, and correctly labeled and packaged. This includes addressing imminent food safety incidents, as well as scanning the horizon for emerging food safety issues before they are implicated in a specific incident. FSIS has successfully developed and refined tools and processes that satisfy both of these aims.

Purpose: In early 2014, FSIS’s Hazard Identification Team (HIT) implemented a systematic approach to identify, track, and triage emerging and re-emerging food safety issues.

Methods: Issues are initially submitted by any FSIS employee, including inspectors and veterinarians in slaughter and processing establishments, using a standardized issue initiation form. HIT prioritizes submitted issues for further agency action using several criteria, including the potential public health impact, the prevalence of the hazard and the severity of its effect, data availability and research needs, previous FSIS action or existing regulation related to the issue, and perceived levels of stakeholder concern. For high-priority issues, dedicated task forces consisting of relevant subject-matter experts are assembled to provide actionable recommendations.

Results: This presentation will highlight best practices developed, and challenges encountered, by FSIS while designing and implementing this program and will share lessons learned from reviews of the HIT process. Examples of emerging food safety issues identified and triaged by HIT will demonstrate the breadth of emerging issues facing regulatory food safety agencies.

Significance: The HIT process enables FSIS to focus resources on the issues of greatest concern, while creating a record of all emerging issues that can be accessed as conditions change. The approach is adaptable and may be of interest to anyone active in the food safety arena.