"As part of our commitment to ensure food safety at all of our nation's plants, FSIS held a national series of listening sessions and has identified innovative ways for small and very small establishments to fully benefit from our safety program that is responsible for dramatic reductions in foodborne illness," said USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Richard Raymond. "We will continue to enhance our outreach efforts to these plants and enlist our partners to ensure critical training, access to food safety experts and information resources are available in a format that's uniform, easily accessible and consistent."
This effort is bound to help foodservice distributorships that operate USDA-certified meat processing and further processing facilities.
The FSIS initiative also offers the opportunity for increased interagency collaboration. Through enhanced outreach efforts, FSIS will make plant owners and operators aware of loan programs available through USDA's Rural Business and Cooperative programs. Joining Raymond and other dignitaries at the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) ceremony in College Station, site of an FSIS training activity, was USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development Thomas Dorr.
"Plant owners, working through lenders, will be able to obtain loan guarantees, making it easier for them to gain access to commercial credit in order to upgrade facilities or equipment, which will further enhance food safety," Dorr said. "This initiative is a good example of USDA agencies working together to better serve the needs of consumers and industry."
The program will feature a toll free number and webpage to assist small plants and better access to technical resources, including scientific validation materials and education and training information, delivered in new and innovative ways. Partnerships with industry, academia, consumers, federal, State, and international public health partners will be expanded and better leveraged. FSIS will assess the needs of the small and very small plants as well as evaluate the effectiveness of Agency programs designed to assist them, on a continuing basis.
Additional aspects of the program will include utilizing FSIS employees to meet proactively with small and very small plants to get more details about their specific needs and provide joint training sessions for small and very small plants and FSIS employees.
Small and very small plants comprise about 90% of the approximately 6,000 federally inspected meat, poultry and egg product plants in the United States. A small plant has between 10 and 500 employees and generates more than $2.5 million in annual sales. A very small plant employs fewer than 10 people or generates less than $2.5 million in annual sales.