- WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Agriculture Department said Thursday it
would not publish the results of salmonella tests that are being conducted
at U.S. meat and poultry plants as part of the department's new food safety
procedures. Consumer groups had argued the test data should be made publicly
available on the USDA's web site so shoppers could find out if any processing
plants were having recurring problems with salmonella.
- In January, the USDA began conducting
salmonella tests at large U.S. meat and poultry plants to check they were
taking steps to reduce contamination by salmonella and other pathogens.
The tests will be introduced at smaller plants by the year 2000. Salmonella
is the most common bacterial cause of illness carried by food in the United
States. More than 9,000 Americans die each year from unsafe food, and millions
more fall ill, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
- The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection
Service said the public could obtain test results for a specific meat processing
plant by submitting a formal request under the Freedom of Information Act.
Federal agencies typically take several weeks or months to process such
requests. The USDA said it would give test results to each plant after
a full sampling was analyzed. But the department said it had ''no specific
plans'' to post the salmonella data on its Internet web pages.
- The USDA also promised to publish an
annual report on its salmonella testing program but said it had not yet
decided on the contents or format.
- ``Individual test results are not meaningful
under this program because the performance standards have been established
to measure performance over time,'' the USDA said in a Federal Register
notice. ``Multiple samples are required to make an appropriate compliance
- If a meat or poultry plant fails a series
of three salmonella sample tests, the USDA said it will halt federal inspections
at the plant, effectively shutting it down. The USDA also said it scheduled
a three-day public meeting beginning May 12 to discuss meat and poultry