The US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has issued new procedures for responding to establishments that fail Salmonella performance standard testing for raw products.

FSIS said that the new procedures constitute a more scientific and systematic approach to food safety and to the enforcement of current regulations, while increasing consistency and uniformity. The new procedures also emphasise coordination between consumer safety officers, district managers, circuit supervisors, compliance officers and inspection personnel to address inspection failures.

The new measures for plants that fail Salmonella testing accelerate the review of a plant's HACCP plan and involve higher level supervisors at an earlier stage than previous procedures. After the first set of samples indicate that Salmonella is being found at a frequency higher than the federal standard, the district manager will document the failure in a notification letter to the establishment, instructing it to take actions necessary for compliance. The circuit supervisor and inspection personnel will conduct an assessment of the establishment's HACCP plan and sanitation SOPs, as well as generic E. coli testing data, focusing on the establishment's planned corrective actions. The circuit supervisor and inspection personnel will develop a plan to verify corrective actions implemented by the plant. If necessary, enforcement actions, such as issuing a Notice of Intended Enforcement or suspending inspection, will be taken.

If the establishment fails a second set of Salmonella tests, the district manager will document the failure in a notification letter to the establishment, communicating that FSIS expects the establishment to reassess its HACCP plan and take corrective and preventive actions. After the plant has reassessed its HACCP plan and implemented any appropriate changes, an FSIS team that includes a consumer safety officer will conduct an in-depth verification (IDV) review. If the review identifies that a problem still exists, FSIS will either allow the plant to reassess its HACCP plan again within 30 days to ensure changes are effective, schedule a third set of Salmonella tests, or initiate enforcement action. The Consumer Safety Officer will develop a plan to verify any modifications made by the establishment in response to the second set failure.

Failure of a third Salmonella test set will require the district manager to again document the failure in a notification letter. The district manager will inform the company that a Consumer Safety Officer and a compliance officer will conduct a comprehensive assessment of the establishment's food safety systems to determine if the systems have failed to prevent, eliminate or reduce to an acceptable level the occurrence of food safety hazards. If the comprehensive assessment identifies that a problem still exists, FSIS will either allow the plant to reassess its HACCP plan again within 30 days, schedule a fourth set of Salmonella tests, or initiate enforcement action.

The consumer safety officer will develop a plan to verify and address the actions taken by the establishment in response to the third set failure.

Additionally, FSIS may conduct IDV reviews at some or all suppliers of a grinding plant that repeatedly fails the performance standard.