Risk-based inspection plan debuts

The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) will soon roll out its new risk-based inspection of processing plants. Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Richard Raymond said the new system goes into effect this month with 30 locations representing about 254 establishments and potentially expanding to approximately 150 locations by the end of 2007. Under the new system, FSIS will take into account the relative risk of what each processing plant produces and how each plant is controlling risk in its operations. Plants with a history of non-compliance will receive more scrutiny than those with a clean record.

The move has caused some concern in Congress, where the recent peanut butter recall continues to reverberate.

“I think it is a mistake for FSIS to move forward with risk-based inspections at this time,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), who introduced legislation to unify federal food inspection under one new agency. “I am very concerned that the plan FSIS has released is not thoroughly developed and is being advanced in absence of the necessary and comprehensive data that would allow them to accurately assess risk.”

Industry, meanwhile, is generally supportive of the changes. Cal Dooley, president and CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association/Food Products Association calls it a step forward.

“The initial step in the program involves only modest adjustments to the intensity of inspection and in a limited number of establishments,” Dooley said. “We believe that the program has the potential to greatly reduce foodborne illnesses and increase consumer confidence in the food supply.”