The U.S. turkey industry has always placed the highest priority on food safety, but after two ground turkey recalls in five months, the National Turkey Federation and its members convened a summit in Washington to share information about food safety practices; develop an aggressive, comprehensive plan to ensure the incidence of Salmonella in turkey products remains low; and to help keep federal inspection programs focused on those activities that best protect public health.

The resulting action plan contains a mix of initiatives and activities that should help members implement programs that further enhance public health and keep the industry on the cutting edge of food safety.

Under Secretary Hagen addressed turkey summit  

Dr. Elisabeth Hagen, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s under secretary for food safety, attended the first day of the summit and set the stage by commending the federation and its members for convening the summit and stressing that the government is looking for an “industry-led response” to issues raised by the recall. She also commended the turkey industry’s longstanding policy that “food safety is a non-competitive issue.” The under secretary also indicated that, while USDA would need to take some actions in response to the recall, it was not seeking to create significant new precedents in food safety regulation.

Consumer groups were present as well to share their views about the need for the industry to enhance pathogen control. Chris Waldrop, director, Food Policy Institute, Consumer Federation of America, not only praised the more than 50 turkey industry technical, regulatory and live production personnel for their participation in the summit, but also reminded the industry not to forget the consumer education component. He applauded NTF’s work with the Partnership for Food Safety Education as a vehicle for educating consumers on the proper at-home food safety practices.

Goals, BMPs reassessed  

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Since the day and a half of dialogue in early September, the turkey industry has begun implementing an aggressive set of short-term, mid-term and long-term goals toward innovative solutions to control the incidence of Salmonella in turkey. For starters, turkey companies already have started reassessing Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point plans. The industry also will begin examining other aspects of production, including reviewing numerous best management practices, such as Food Safety Best Practices for the Production of Turkeys, Best Management Practices for the Production of Ground Turkey and Best Management Practices for Immersion Chilling. A precedent has been set through these BMPs to ensure the production of the highest quality, safest product possible.

The turkey industry has worked hard over the years to earn a reputation for producing safe, nutritious and delicious food for the American consumer. NTF and its members also will continue their “industry-driven” response to educate consumers that the ultimate way to remove all naturally occurring pathogens from food is through proper cooking, and we look forward to working together toward new solutions to control the incidence of Salmonella in turkey.

NTF’s overriding mission in this situation is to ensure all its members have the tools they need to produce safe, nutritious, high-quality ground turkey and other turkey products for all Americans.

Food safety focus at upcoming convention  

Accordingly, food safety will be a major topic at the upcoming NTF 2012 Annual Convention, February 15-18, 2012, at the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina. More than 500 turkey industry executives will have an opportunity to discuss food safety and other important issues currently affecting the industry’s future profitability. The meeting’s general session will focus specifically on challenging members to look at the turkey industry through the perspective of others by hearing from a consumer advocate for food safety, along with an industry leader on technology’s role in the 21st century to make safe, affordable and abundant food a global reality.