The US Department of Agriculture has resubmitted a proposed food safety regulation. The regulation would require meat and poultry establishments to conduct food contact surface testing. It has met with some resistance from food processing industry body NFPA, as the tests would increase producers’ costs. In any case, it isn’t clear that the regulation would actually have much effect on consumer confidence in food safety.

According to the National Food Processors Association (NFPA), which represents the $460 billion food processing industry on scientific and public policy issues, “Because of the scope of this rule and the broad variety of foods it covers, NFPA will need time to review and then respond to these proposed regulations.” The proposed regulation, originally submitted this January, would require meat and poultry establishments to tighten performance standards for the production of ready-to-eat products. In addition to meat and poultry products, the proposed regulations also extend to a variety of processing and canning techniques.

More stringent inspection regulations will lead to increased costs for the food industry, which would be passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices. Considering the rapid growth and popularity of the ready-to-eat market, any move by regulatory agencies in the US is bound to raise concern across manufacturers and producers within the industry. Datamonitor figures show that the ready-to-eat market in the US translates into approximately $625 million in revenues annually.

Although the US may have the safest food supply in the world, recent, well-publicized cases of E. coli contamination and other food-borne pathogens have spurred a heightened sense of awareness among consumers with regard to food safety, especially that of meat and poultry products. The NFPA may have said that it “looks forward to working with the USDA on this issue,” but a push towards more stringent regulations will still do little to allay lingering consumer concerns about the safety of the nation’s ready-to-eat meat and poultry supply.

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