Alfred Almanza, the USDA’s deputy under secretary for food safety, gave updates on the new poultry slaughter standards and other food safety issues at two important conferences held recently.

Almanza spoke to members of the International Association for Food Protection (IAFP) and the Southwest Meat Association (SMA). IAFP hosts the leading food safety conference worldwide, while SMA is an organization that provides information and assistance to packer and processor members across the United States.

During his speech to SMA on July 24, DUS Almanza spoke about the new Food Safety Assessment (FSA) methodology, modernization, the development of the next FSIS Strategic Plan, and upcoming policy developments. About two weeks ago, FSIS instituted a dramatically improved, streamlined FSA methodology. While the old approach resulted in evaluation, investigations, and analysis officers spending an average of almost 38 days in an establishment, the new approach will require 5-7 days in plant.

Almanza’s segment on modernization touched on poultry slaughter and the possibility of expanding hog slaughter modernization based on the results of the HIMP (Evaluation of HACCP Inspection Models Project) pilot program. While there is currently no HIMP-style project for beef, Almanza noted that FSIS is looking at ways of modernizing beef slaughter based on science and data. He also cited upcoming policy developments included the final guidance document for HACCP validation that was issued in May, the final rule for grinding logs to be issued this year, and the proposed rule for Non-ambulatory Disabled Veal Calves that was issued in May.

At IAFP on July 28, Almanza spoke about modernization and touched upon the new poultry standards. He described the Mechanically Tenderized Beef Rule, which becomes effective in May 2016, and he also elaborated on FSIS’ newly issued best practices to control Listeria at retail.

During IAFP, Almanza shared the stage with FDA’s Mike Taylor and spoke about collaboration between FSIS and other agencies, such as the Interagency Food Safety Analytics Collaboration among CDC, FDA and FSIS. Almanza provided a synopsis of FSIS’ recent success with social media and consumer education, such as the new “FoodKeeper App” available for smartphones, which has had over 70,000 downloads since April 2015.