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How Has COVID-19 Impacted the USDA’s Efforts to Fight Foodborne Illness?

Posted on in Foodborne illness

Chicago food poisoning attorneyThis year has been a challenging time for businesses everywhere, especially those deemed essential workers. Government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), fall within this category and have continued to work despite the threat of the COVID-19 virus. As the pandemic reaches its tenth month in the U.S., many businesses have become accustomed to working during these unprecedented times. FSIS recently released its annual accomplishments in modernizing the agency and fulfilling its mission to prevent foodborne illness throughout the United States.

Working During the Pandemic

FSIS employs approximately 9,000 employees who are spread across laboratories, federally regulated establishments, import establishments, or in-commerce facilities. According to the agency’s fiscal year report, no FSIS regulated establishments closed as a result of absent inspection personnel. The agency called on other USDA employees when necessary to supplement any missing workers due to the pandemic. This allowed FSIS to inspect over 166 million head of livestock, 9.68 billion poultry carcasses, 2.5 billion pounds of egg products, and more.

Improving and Modernizing 

Each year, FSIS strives to modernize its inspection systems and operations to protect public health. In 2019, the agency published the final rule on the Modernization of Swine Slaughter Inspection, as this is a common source of foodborne illnesses. The new rule includes two parts: mandatory microbial testing requirements at all swine facilities and the New Swine Slaughter Inspection System (NSIS). The NSIS requires additional offline inspections that directly impact public health while continuing 100 percent carcass-by-carcass inspection. Since being passed in 2019, seven plants have successfully converted to this new system in the past year. 

FSIS targeted another common cause of food poisoning: egg products. The Egg Products Inspection Regulations final rule was approved in early September 2020 which is the first time it has been updated since 1970. All egg product regulations are now consistent with current Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) requirements in the poultry and meat product inspection regulations.

Honing in on Foodborne Illness

FSIS proposed and requested public opinion on the updated salmonella performance standards for raw ground beef, one of the most common food poisoning pathogens. FSIS created these standards to ensure that manufacturers are being consistent in controlling or reducing salmonella in their facilities and products. The government agency also modernized lab identification methods for salmonella to use DNA data analysis for improved detection of the pathogen.

Contact an Illinois Food Poisoning Lawyer Today

Despite FSIS best efforts, food poisoning cases have slipped through the cracks over the last year. According to the CDC, 48 million people get sick from foodborne illnesses on an annual basis, 128,000 of which are hospitalized for their condition. At Newland & Newland, LLP, we believe that everyone deserves to receive safe and healthy food, no matter the source or circumstances. Our reputable legal team will help you prove that your symptoms were a result of food poisoning, and assist you in pursuing compensation. If you have been a victim of food poisoning, contact our Chicago food poisoning attorney at 312-981-0409 to discuss your experience during your free initial consultation.



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