Dr. Mindy Brashears, USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety, this week discussed her FSIS “2020 Vision: Focus on the Future” action plan as the keynote speaker at the virtual 66th International Congress of Meat Science and Technology (ICoMST) and American Meat Science Association (AMSA) 73rd Reciprocal Meat Conference.

Brashears noted that meat and poultry establishments have been diligent in their efforts to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the food supply and the health of the workforce, according to reporting by Meatingplace.

Dr. Mindy Brashears

“The reality is that we were really only in reduced capacity for a couple of weeks. And then we started seeing it really turn around as plants started implementing the CDC strategies,” Brashears said. “We’ve really operated at above 97% to 98% pretty consistently for the last several weeks. I am so proud of our meat and poultry industry, the way they reacted to the recommendations.”

The three tenets of Brashear’s FSIS 2020 Vision — lead with science, build relationships, and  influence change behavior — have all moved to the forefront of the agency’s agenda, Meatingplace reported. Topping the list will be a focus on salmonella and a commitment to “moving the needle in regards to reducing the number of foodborne illnesses” in line with Healthy People 2030 goals.

“From 2015 to 2019, we have reduced salmonella in poultry from 24% to 9%,” Brashears said. “We have monitored this [and] implemented performance standards, and we have seen that this number continues to decline.”

“We feel that these performance standards work,” Brashears said. “It allows the industry to implement new technologies and to have process control to reduce the pathogen in their product. Ultimately, we believe this will correlate in correspond to a reduction in the number of illnesses in the population.”

She said that FSIS’s road map to Salmonella control was sidetracked in April but will be rolled out in October, including a virtual public comment meeting and publishing in the Federal Register.

“From a public standpoint, this road map will cover things like performance standards, modernization of inspection, a modernization of our sampling and lab methods, and even consumer education,” Brashears noted. “It will describe all of the processes that we currently have in the agency that we are doing for salmonella. We are looking for ideas and also how to enhance the current programs.”