The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) says its inspectors will continue to test for Salmonella in meat grinding plants, and won't hesitate to shut down plants that don't meet food safety standards. The announcement follows a recent U.S. Court of Appeals decision limiting USDA's power to enforce salmonella performance standards.

In Supreme Beef Processors, Inv. v. USDA, the Fifth Circuit Court limited the agency's enforcement power, but not the department's ability to use the standards as a way to measure the effectiveness of food safety programs within plants. In a statement, Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said she does not believe the ruling would prevent USDA from closing any plant "that does not meet the statutory and regulatory requirements of the law for processing meat and poultry."

USDA said it will continue to test for Salmonella in grinding plants to verify that a plant's food safety systems are meeting required specifications. If a plant fails two sample sets, USDA will immediately conduct an in-depth review of the plant's food safety systems and identify corrective actions to be taken. Failure by the plant to address any deficiencies will result in suspension or withdrawal of which would effectively shut down the plant. USDA says it will also step up plans for placing 75 new Consumer Safety Officers in the field. Their primary responsibility will be conducting in-depth reviews of plant HACCP plans throughout the U.S., with particular emphasis on facilities that fail a second sample set or do not meet HACCP requirements.