The Food Safety Consortium Newsletter

Vol. 8, Number 4

Autumn 1998

  • Cooking With Computers Shows Way to Reducing Bacteria
  • Forsythe: Irradiation Helps, But Not All the Time
  • Spice Wars: E. coli Falls Prey to Seasonings
  • Report From the Coordinator
  • Beran Honored for ISU Service
  • Hot Water, Acid Zaps Contaminants
  • Salmonella Contamination Cut, USDA Says
  • FAO, UA Sign Pact
  • Early Stages of Processing Likely Targets for Action
  • Papers and Presentations
  • Food Safety Digest

    Cooking With Computers Shows Way to Reducing Bacteria

    Pre-cooked refrigerated products are expected to account for 80 percent of the poultry industry's growth by 2005. The shift has been in the works for several years and it has prompted the need for some changes in poultry processors' cooking operations to safeguard the food.

    Specifically, processors need to ensure that the cooking process kills the targeted level of pathogenic bacteria upon reaching certain temperatures. A Food Safety Consortium team at the University of Arkansas is devising various mathematical formulas designed to predict bacterial inactivation. The team will soon test the formulas in a commercial pilot-scale oven.

    Bradley Marks of the University of Arkansas pursues ways to make sure the cooking process kills Salmonella.

    "The processors I've worked with desire to get a scientific basis by which they can design and operate cooking systems," said Bradley Marks, an associate professor of biological and agricultural engineering in the UA Division of Agriculture who is the principal investigator in the Consortium's project. "Right now, it's basically that you pull it out and see if it's hot enough."

    Cooking systems have been based primarily on a concept known as endpoint lethality. That means the target was to achieve an endpoint temperature &emdash; a temperature at the coldest innermost part of the product high enough to fully cook it. That was presumed to have killed the pathogenic bacteria as thoroughly as possible.

    Now, however, the research team is approaching the problem from another angle. "The goal is to kill Salmonella, so we're using that as our target rather than just saying we want to achieve a certain endpoint temperature," Marks said. Part of the logic is that it is possible to use different combinations of time and temperatures to kill pathogenic organisms, so the level of kill should be the main goal.

    "So the question is, what ways can we achieve that kill and what's the impact on the product's quality?" Marks said.

    "The cooking systems out there are installed and operated predominantly by experience rather than science. Experience gets you an answer that is both legal and financially sound." But Marks noted that experienced people retire or quit their jobs and that the processing companies would prefer to have a consistent scientific basis for determining cooking procedures.

    Marks' team set out to find answers by analyzing the processors' needs. A processor uses several ovens that can be set at various parameters covering humidity levels, temperature levels, product flow and air flow velocities. If a processor has three ovens that each has four different parameters that can be adjusted within the oven, it would take hundreds of experiments covering many combinations of settings to get a picture of what the effects would be on the cooked poultry.

    Plugging in mathematical formulas to model cooking scenarios can produce the first stage of answers much faster.

    "We're trying to mathematically simulate what happens to this product as it goes through the cooking line and we base that on the fundamentals of heat and mass transfer rather than just statistics," Marks said. "We then validate it to see if the model matches up with reality. If it does, the model becomes a tool. Instead of running hundreds of experiments, you just run hundreds of simulations, which costs virtually nothing in terms of computer time."

    The researchers spent their first year of the project developing a model and validating its findings in small laboratory tests. They are currently moving to experiments on a pilot-scale model oven lent to the university by Tyson Foods. "The pilot scale is designed to be a mini-version of what's in the actual processing plant in terms of the commercial oven and the air impingement and high velocity," Marks said.

    In engineering, Marks noted, the goal is to take the data from the computer and the lab and scale it proportionally to get an idea of what would occur in a real processing plant. "This oven will let us run enough combinations that we can validate to see if the simulation is working."

    Marks warned of potential complications. "These simulation methodologies were originally developed for engineering materials. We're trying to use them on a biological material which just behaves differently. We also encounter the fact that when you're cooking this chicken you're causing physical changes and chemical changes. All of that impacts our ability to predict what will happen."

    The economic impact of these experiments may become apparent within a few years as industry begins implementing information generated by the models. "Every company is looking for a competitive edge," Marks said, "but they all know that we're looking to improve the profitability of cooking while continuing to ensure microbial safety. The market trends mean the profitability in processing is going to hinge a lot on the cooking operations because that's where you turn the commodity into a high-valued fully-cooked product."

    Forsythe: Irradiation Helps, But Not All the Time

    Irradiation is an effective way to pasteurize foods, but advocates of the procedure should realize that not all food must be irradiated, according to a former executive of the Food Safety Consortium.

    "Government politicians, irradiation supporters and food activists should quit trying to force the irradiation of all poultry, all pork, all beef, and yes, even all raspberries and face the fact that all food does not need irradiation," said Richard Forsythe, a former coordinator of the FSC and an emeritus distinguished professor of poultry science at the University of Arkansas. Forsythe wrote his remarks in a guest editorial in Food Microbiology (Vol. 15, 1998).

    Forsythe said attempting to irradiate all foods would create major logistical processing, transportation and environmental problems. Instead, he said, food needing this treatment should be identified: foods for the immune compromised, foods for some hospital patients and foods that need to meet certain export requirements, among others.

    "Then we could work together to introduce food irradiation on an 'as needed' basis," Forsythe said. "This was the way the pasteurization of milk was introduced."

    Irradiation is beneficial in that it pasteurizes food, but it is not the ultimate solution to all potential problems in food safety. Forsythe noted that irradiation at approved doses reduces most pathogens and non-sporeforming organisms, but it has little effect on sporeformers.

    "Irradiation does not prevent temperature abuse during distribution, or cross contamination in food service and home kitchens or inadequate cooking temperatures," Forsythe said. "So the same temperature control and sanitary conditions currently in use must still be judiciously maintained, which as we know from the causes of most foodborne illness have been violated. Irradiation does not stop this."

    Forsythe pointed out that arguments to irradiate all food "belies the fact that the levels of microbial contamination at the point where irradiation would be carried out are extremely low. ... This is a little like using a sledge hammer to kill a fly."

    Significant logistical and transportation problems would make it difficult to irradiate all foods. Forsythe explained that 114 irradiation facilities the size of the one currently operating in Florida would be required to irradiate all the poultry produced in the 178 slaughter and 65 further processing plants in the U.S. The Florida operation is the only irradiation facility dedicated solely to food.

    Spice Wars: E. coli Falls Prey to Seasonings

    Common kitchen spices &emdash; garlic, cinnamon, clove and others &emdash; can kill the most dangerous strain of Escherichia coli.

    Daniel Fung, a food microbiologist with the Food Safety Consortium at Kansas State University, has confirmed preliminary findings of a study pairing familiar spices with uncooked consumer beef. The study is the first in the United States that looks at the effect of common spices on E. coli O157:H7. Previous studies have concluded spices kill other foodborne pathogens.



    Common household spices may have qualities that make food safer, researchers at Kansas State University have found.


    "In the first part of our study, we tested 23 spices against E. coli O157:H7 in the laboratory," Fung said. "We found that several spices are good at killing this strain of E. coli."

    Garlic, clove, cinnamon, oregano and sage each killed the bacteria in varying amounts. In the laboratory study, garlic killed the organism completely. None of the other 18 spices tested was successful in killing E. coli O157:H7.

    The five bacteria-killers were then used in the second part of the study. Scientists introduced approximately 100,000 E. coli O157:H7 bacteria per gram to store-bought ground beef, then separately added the spices.

    Again, the spices killed the bacteria.

    Of the five, garlic and clove proved best at killing E. coli O157:H7. Garlic was best in the laboratory study, while clove was the best of the spices added directly to ground beef. In both parts of the study, the five spices killed E. coli O157:H7 bacteria in varying amounts.

    Scientists have found E. coli O157:H7 present in less than 1 percent of the U.S. food supply, but it is believed to be the most toxic strain of the bacteria. In severe cases, E. coli O157:H7 causes death in humans.

    Killing the bacteria is fairly simple. Consumer-awareness campaigns champion cooking ground beef to 71 degrees C (160 degrees F) before serving. Now, the spice rack is an additional ally. Using their choice of spice, consumers can give themselves extra protection when preparing and handling beef at home.

    "People will still have to take care in handling beef and will still have to heat the product," Fung said. "Spice may provide an additional killing effect alongside heat treatment. The exact combination of spice and heat needs to be tested, however.

    "An additional aspect of the research is to extract the active ingredient in these spices that is killing E. coli 0157:H7 and understand why it does this."

    In the meantime, Fung urges continued emphasis on how consumers cook ground beef.

    "Consumers should still heat ground beef to 71 C (160 F)," he said. "At this point, our conclusion is that we soon may be able to say they also can use spice to effectively kill E. coli O157:H7."

    Another of Fung's studies combined spices with salami and other fermented sausages. As in his work with ground beef, the spices were able to kill E. coli O157:H7 introduced to fermented sausage. This has special significance for sausage lovers, since some sausage products often are not heated.

    "The study is very exciting because people can relate to the spices we're working with," Fung said. "The data show that they are effective in killing this dangerous strain of E. coli."

    (Article courtesy of Kansas State University Research and Extension Department of Communications.)

    Report From the Coordinator

    By Charles J. Scifres

    Food safety branches into many areas: consumer education, risk analysis, intervention systems and several others. They tie into activity on farms, in processing plants, in food service facilities, in retail businesses and in educational and research institutions. No matter how diverse the food safety community becomes in its approaches to problem solving, we should all constantly remember that sound science is the basis of our activities.

    This has been a recurring theme in the Food Safety Consortium and many other food safety organizations over the years. It bears repeating now and then. It is also worthwhile to take note of others who remind the public of this important emphasis.

    For example, a committee of the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council recently issued a report on the nation's food safety needs. One of its top recommendations was that the food safety system should be based on science. The committee said regulatory priorities should be supported by strong scientific evidence. That evidence, the committee said, should be used to identify threats such as microbiological pathogens, naturally occurring toxins, food additives, agricultural chemicals, environmental contaminants, animal drug residues, excessive consumption of some dietary supplements and improper methods of handling food.

    As reported elsewhere in this issue, the director of the Idexx Laboratories Food Safety Net told the American Meat Science Association of the need for a greater emphasis on science in forming national food safety policy. H.R. Cross contended that less than 20 percent of current policymaking is science-based with science taking a back seat to politics. He proposed that the food safety community do what it can to raise the level of emphasis on science to 50 percent.

    It only makes sense that science be a bedrock foundation for decisions, because the scientific data keeps coming in and it's not going away. One data-gathering point is FoodNet, the sentinel site surveillance system operated by three federal agencies to provide estimates of foodborne disease cases in the U.S. and to determine their causes. FoodNet has found that Campylobacter is the number one pathogen causing illness.

    Meanwhile, a recent Food and Drug Administration survey found that 90 percent of the respondents were familiar with E. coli 0157:H7 and Salmonella, but only 20 percent were aware of Campylobacter and Listeria. That ought to tell us we need to do more to get the word out about the latest trends in foodborne illness, because the policies that drive research will determine what projects our researchers will pursue.

    The scientific results may tell us we ought to go one particular direction, but it certainly helps to have the government and the general public on the same wave length in these endeavors. The Food Safety Consortium is among those entities dedicated to using solid science in its pursuit of a safer food supply and making sure that our stakeholders understand why we are following that path.

    Beran Honored for Service: George Beran accepts a commemoration trophy in recognition of his years of service as the Food Safety Consortium program director at Iowa State University. Beran, who retired from his full-time faculty position earlier this year, received the award at the FSC's annual meeting in October in Kansas City. Jim Dickson, an ISU principal investigator in the Consortium, succeeded Beran as program director.

    Hot Water, Acid Zaps Contaminants

    The animal food industry is placing greater emphasis on fighting contamination of carcasses in the early stages of processing. A Food Safety Consortium researcher at Iowa State University has been experimenting with hot water and acid on hog carcasses and has found that the process reduces the bacterial population in greater numbers than current conventional methods allow.

    Jim Dickson, an associate professor of microbiology, immunology and preventive medicine, explained that microbial contamination of animal carcasses is inevitable during slaughtering. Much of the initial contamination comes from the hide during removal. Slaughter instruments can spread contamination into internal organs and slaughterhouse workers can be a source of contamination.

    All carcasses are already washed, usually with cold water, Dickson said. Other conventional treatments include spot cleaning systems in which contamination is mechanically trimmed off or a steam vacuum is used.

    "We're taking more of the approach that hot water rinsing in combination with organic acids is an entire treatment by washing inside and out," Dickson said. "We're able to address contaminants that aren't visible."

    Dickson said he was familiar with one company that was following its cold-water rinsing with an acid rinse. "We're seeing that by increasing the water temperature, you're getting a much greater effect from the acids. So there's a synergy between the two processes &emdash; the hot-water wash followed by the acid. We don't see that same synergy if you do the acid first and then follow it with hot water."

    Dickson's next step is to arrange for a commercial packing plant to apply the procedures. Processors have some incentive to be interested because of new federal rules reducing the allowable level of detectible E. coli bacteria found during sampling of carcasses. The rules allow no more than 0.1 colony-forming units per square centimeter within a sample.

    "We've heard from several processors who are concerned about making the guideline because that's something they have to hit pretty consistently," Dickson said. "The processors are interested in additional treatment that would allow or insure compliance with this guideline."

    Salmonella Contamination Cut, USDA Says

    Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman says the new, prevention-oriented meat and poultry inspection system has nearly cut in half the proportion of broiler chickens contaminated with Salmonella &emdash; and greatly reduced the frequency of Salmonella in pork. Glickman said in September that these data, while preliminary, indicate that the Administration's science-based inspection system, introduced in 1996, is already having a significant effect on the safety of food American families eat.

    Salmonella is a potentially deadly bacteria that sickens as many as 3.84 million Americans and costs billions of dollars in lost productivity and medical costs each year.

    Initial testing in large plants indicates that Salmonella, found on 20 percent of broiler chickens in baseline surveys before implementation of the new Hazard Analysis and Critical

    Control Points inspection system (HACCP), was found on only 10.4 percent of broilers. And Salmonella was found on only 5.5 percent of swine carcasses from plants that had implemented HACCP; 8.7 percent had tested positive previously. These results stem from testing conducted over a six-month period earlier this year, after implementation of HACCP in large plants.

    There is insufficient data to draw conclusions about other categories of meat and poultry products, including ground beef. However, the next report, scheduled for release in early 1999, will include results for all products tested.

    The results also indicate that 88 percent of HACCP plants for which there was adequate data met the government's Salmonella performance standards. Those plants that did not

    meet the standards were required to take immediate corrective action. The performance standards for Salmonella represent the first time USDA has set microbial standards for raw product on such a scale.

    HACCP is designed to reduce risks by identifying potential hazards and implementing control measures to effectively address them. It also mandates tough, new sanitation procedures.

    FAO, UA Sign Pact

    The University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture has signed an agreement with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to support international food quality and safety programs. The division will establish an FAO Secretariat within the university's Institute of Food Science and Engineering to begin joint activities on food quality and safety.

    The Food Safety Consortium is among the units that will work with the FAO Secretariat on projects. The FAO Secretariat will work with other units in Arkansas to facilitate activities and will also serve as a focal point for other land-grant universities working with FAO member countries.

    The goal of the project is to help countries importing produce into the U.S. insure that the produce meets the same standards of quality and safety as fruits and vegetables produced in the U.S. The initial focus will be on training activities to ensure the quality and safety of produce imported from Central and South America.

    Extension specialists in the Institute of Food Science and Engineering were asked earlier this year to provide training in the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points system to personnel in a major national grocery retailer with headquarters in Arkansas. Reducing contamination by microbial pathogens on fruits and vegetables is a major concern to retailers and consumers. The Institute's link with FAO will enable an extension of HACCP training to other countries which are traditional importers of produce.

    Early Stages of Processing Likely Targets for Action

    Food safety has been enhanced in recent years since processors began implementing controls designed to avoid hazards rather than just respond to them. Looking to the future, James Marsden predicts that federal regulators will also emphasize measures to eliminate bacterial contamination in the animal or on the slaughterhouse floor.

    Marsden, a Food Safety Consortium principal investigator at Kansas State University, recalled that the system in 1992 was partly to blame for the outbreak of illnesses in the Pacific Northwest when contaminated beef was sold to customers at fast-food restaurants. "We only had one critical control point in the system then, which was cooking," Marsden said. "And that wasn't control."

    Today, with the continuing implementation of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point systems and the development of good manufacturing practices, meat processing now includes additional hazard avoidance safeguards.

    Marsden noted that one of those safeguards is steam pasteurization, a relatively new critical control point which enables meat processors to kill large numbers of pathogenic microbes on beef carcasses by applying pressurized steam. Pathogens found in the intestinal tracts of cattle can be passed on to the meat's surface during he slaughtering process, so immersing the carcasses in steam reduces those occurrences.

    Steam pasteurization, however, does not sterilize the meat and other opportunities for recontamination exist down the processing line. But the overall safety of the meat is improved by introducing a critical control point well before cooking, Marsden said. Meanwhile, there have been improvements on the commercial cooking front in recent years.

    "Restaurants are doing a much better job in defining the time and temperature requirements for inactivating hazards," Marsden said. "They are basing their cooking methods on those scientific principles, which is different than it was in 1993."

    Marsden predicted that the U.S. Department of Agriculture would change the focus of its food safety regulations to require more precautions at the early stages of production and processing of animal meat.

    "In all probability, any contamination is occurring upstream," Marsden said. "It's not occurring in grinding plants. It's not occurring in retail stores. Contaminated trimmings that become ground beef are the problem."

    USDA will likely seek to eliminate or reduce the source of contamination either in the animal itself or on the slaughterhouse floor, Marsden said. "That will be a big change in regulatory policy that will drive a lot of research."

    Papers and Presentations

    Gordon E. Schutze, Rossina Stefanova, Kathleen Eisenach, M. Donald Cave and Ellie L. Flick, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, and Russell Kirby, University of Wisconsin Medical School, co-authored "Epidemiology and Molecular Identification of Salmonella in Children" in the July 1998 (Vol. 152) edition of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

    John Giamalva, Martin Redfern and William C. Bailey, Arkansas, published "Dietitians Employed by Health Care Facilities Preferred a HACCP System Over Irradiation or Chemical Rinses for Reducing Risk of Foodborne Disease" in the August 1998 edition of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

    R.K. Bansal, Joel Walker, Yang Tao and Yanbin Li, Arkansas, presented "A Study of High Pressure Water Jet for Cutting Chicken Breast Meat" at the American Society of Agricultural Engineers Annual International Meeting in July in Orlando, Fla.

    Amy Waldroup, Arkansas, delivered a presentation on "Chemical Treatments for Microbial Control" in July at the International Salmonella Symposium in Baltimore and another presentation in July on "Operation Food Safety" to the Washington State Fryer Commission in Seattle. Waldroup and Susan Slaughter, Arkansas, presented Operation Food Safety training workshops during July and August in the Arkansas cities of Jonesboro, Harrisburg and Fayetteville.

    John Marcy and Amy Waldroup, Arkansas, presented an exhibit on Operation Food Safety in July at the Comprehensive School Health Annual Meeting in Little Rock. Marcy and Waldroup were also interviewed for an article on Campylobacter and poultry in the Business Matters section of the Aug. 30 edition of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

    Amy Waldroup and Park Waldroup, Arkansas, received an $80,000 grant from Calpis International for competitive exclusion research.

    James Denton, Arkansas, participated in the public comments meeting in Washington regarding the HACCP Inspection Models Project.

    Harley Moon, Iowa State, was a member of the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council committee that wrote the report "Ensuring Safe Food From Production to Consumption," which was published in August by the National Academy Press. Moon participated in the news conference in Washington upon the report's release and was later interviewed on WHO Radio in Des Moines and by the State News Service.

    Moon also received the American Feed Industry Association award for outstanding nutrition research by a veterinarian.

    S.M. Franck, B.T. Bosworth and Harley Moon, Iowa State, published "Multiplex PCR for Enterotoxigenic, Attaching and Effacing, and Shiga Toxin-Producing Escherichia coli Strains From Calves" in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology, Vol. 36, No. 6.

    Evelyn Dean-Nystrom, B.T. Bosworth, Harley Moon, and A.D. O'Brien, Iowa State, co-wrote "Bovine Infection With Shiga Toxin-Producing Escherichia coli 0157:H7 and Other Shiga Toxin-Producing Strains" for the American Society for Microbiology in Washington.

    John A. Fox, Jason F. Shogren, Dermot J. Hayes and James B. Kliebenstein, Iowa State, published "CVM-X: Calibrating Contingent Values With Experimental Auction Markets" in the August 1998 edition (Vol. 80) of the American Journal of Agricultural Economics.

    Daniel Fung, Kansas State, directed the 18th annual international workshop on Rapid Methods and Automation in Microbiology at Kansas State University in July. Scientists from 16 nations and 26 states attended. Fung also was a key lecturer in July at a three-day workshop on rapid methods in microbiology at Monterrey Tech.

    Fung completed a three-year term as a member of the Executive Committee of the Institute of Food Technologists. He was also recently elected a Fellow of the International Academy of Food Science Technology.

    Fung's research into common spices' ability to kill E. coli 0157:H7 was featured in August in The New York Times.

    Curtis Kastner, Kansas State, delivered a presentation on "Recent Developments in Research and Meat Safety" at the Douglas County Livestock Association Annual Meeting in March in Lawrence, Kan. Kastner also presented "Realities of E. coli 0157:H7" at the Western Science Research Update Conference in San Francisco. He also offered research recommendations of the Beef Industry Food Safety Council in July at the National Cattlemen's Beef Association Cattle Industry Summer Conference in Denver.

    Kelly Karr, Randall Phebus, James Marsden, J.R. Schwenke and Curtis Kastner, Kansas State, published the abstract "Control of Escherichia coli 0157:H7 in 90 mm Diameter Lebanon-style Bologna" at the 1998 Institute of Food Technologists Annual Meeting.

    V.S. Gill, James Marsden, Donald Kropf, Kathleen Hachmeister, Curtis Kastner and J.S. Pontius, Kansas State, published "Effects of Electron Beam Irradiation on Color of Ground Beef Patties" as an abstract in the proceedings of the 1998 Reciprocal Meats Conference in Storrs, Conn.

    A.A. Al-Sahal, F.K. Ray, G.H. Dolezal, R.G. Teeter, R.L. Hendrickson and Curtis Kastner, Kansas State, published the abstract "The Effect of Ammonia Concentration and Exposure Time on the Quality of Muscle Tissues" at the 1998 Institute of Food Technologists Annual Meeting.

    Several Kansas State University personnel co-wrote reports for the 1998 Kansas State University Cattlemen's Day Report, No. 804. T.L. Brown, Randall Phebus, P.E. Peters, Abbey Nutsch, Curtis Kastner and Donald Kropf co-authored "Evaluation of Changes in Microbial Populations on Beef Carcasses Resulting From Steam Pasteurization." Kelly Karr, Curtis Kastner, James Marsden and Randall Phebus co-wrote "Control of Escherichia coli 0157:H7 in Large-diameter, Lebanon-style Bologna." D.L. Retzlaff, Randall Phebus, S.A. Rueger, James Marsden and Curtis Kastner co-wrote "Microbial Evaluation of Steam Pasteurization and Comparison and Excision Versus Sponge Sampling Recovery."

    Food Safety Digest

    By Dave Edmark

    Two private research organizations have called for the coordination of federal food safety activities by one individual. A committee of the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council presented its recommendations in August at a news conference in Washington.

    "The United States has some of the attributes of an effective food safety system, but it lacks a central authority and is hampered by old laws that don't allow flexible responses to today's threats," said John Bailar III, chair of the committee and chair of the health studies department at the University of Chicago. "As the challenges to ensuring safe food change and grow more complex, it is crucial that we rethink how to address the greatest threats to health."

    The 13-member committee included a Food Safety Consortium principal investigator, Harley W. Moon, chair of veterinary medicine at Iowa State University.

    The congressionally mandated study said one individual should be appointed to lead implementation of a comprehensive plan that would pull together the responsibilities now administered by at least 12 federal agencies. Many members of the committee supported the establishment of a single food safety agency as the best way to achieve coordination, but the committee acknowledged that federal officials may be able to address food safety needs through other organizational structures.

    The report included these other recommendations:

    * The food safety system should be based on science. Regulatory priorities should be supported by strong scientific evidence aimed at prevention and at identification of threats to food safety.

    * Congress should change federal statutes so that inspection, research and enforcement are based on scientifically supportable assessments of risk. The committee noted that long-standing statutes calling for visual inspection of meat and poultry "may even detract from protection efforts by diverting resources from implementation of science-based inspection reforms." The committee said Congress should no longer require inspection of each animal carcass but should mandate a single set of regulations for all foods. It also called for legislation that would allow food to be imported only from countries with inspection systems considered to be equivalent to U.S. systems.

    * A comprehensive national food safety plan should be developed. The plan should support research and integration of federal efforts with state and local activities.

    The report said federal agencies responsible for food safety often lack coordination and consistency and are not well integrated with lower levels of government. It also said the federal agencies are often driven by responding to crises rather than by planning ways to prevent them.

    The full report, entitled "Ensuring Safe Food From Production to Consumption," is available from the National Academy of Sciences for $29.95 plus $4 shipping charge by calling 1- 800-624-6242.

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