Food Safety in the United States


Food safety is an important aspect of the overall health of the United States population. The government takes the security of the food supplied to its citizens for consumption seriously. It is for this reason that the Department of Agriculture has a Food Safety and Inspective Service division. The paper explores the department’s inspection requirements for livestock prepared for human consumption. It also discusses the pathogen reduction and HACCP requirements. Finally, the paper analyzes the case study of Japan’s import restriction of U.S. beef that occurred in 2003.

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USDA’s Inspection Requirements

The United States Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service is responsible for the inspection of livestock that is useful for human consumption. According to the inspection requirements, slaughter plants are supposed to inform the Food Safety and Inspection Service officers to inspect animals before their slaughter. The inspectors after the notification review the animals before giving the plant permission to slaughter the livestock. Another requirement is that the inspectors when reviewing the animals are expected to watch them while in motion and at rest for any symptoms of diseases or abnormalities that would prohibit the animal from use as human food. The guidelines require the inspectors to check the pathological composition in a carcass. If the carcass is unfit for human consumption, they are to declare it as so. Any carcass that is in need of further inspection is isolated before an advanced inspector is called to review it. The slaughter plant is required to preserve the identity of every carcass and to ensure that isolated carcasses do not enter the food market. The inspectors are also required to evaluate the sanitary conditions of a slaughter plant.

Pathogen Reduction/HACCP Requirements

Pathogen reduction and the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points System is a regulatory system that ensures meat and poultry safety in slaughter plants by the application of certain specified requirements. The system concentrates on the prevention of microbial pathogens on raw products that can cause illnesses. The system has four requirements that establishments are expected to follow. The first requirement is that all meat and poultry plants are supposed to enforce a system of preventive controls known as Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points. These assist the plant to improve the safety of its products. Under this requirement, a plant evaluates its processes to establish the points at which hazards might exist and compromise the security of the establishment's products. The hazard points, known as critical control points, include the chilling process or the sealing of cans. Once the plant identifies these points, it establishes critical limits that it expresses in numbers representing parameters like time, temperature and P.H levels. An example of a critical limit in a plant would be a statement explaining that in order to avoid hazards during the chilling of poultry, the poultry should be chilled to 39 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the critical limits are set, the plant creates supervision mechanisms for each critical control point and corrects any deviations. An example of a correction is the destruction of unchangeable products.

The second requirement of the system is that in a meat or poultry plant, the system should be combined with performance standards as a way of establishing the protection level required. One of the performance standards set by the Department of Agriculture is on the level of Salmonella contained in the meat and poultry products of the slaughter plants. Salmonella is applicable as a test subject because it is present in all classes of food products and is easily detected. The supposition is that if establishments decrease the carcasses with Salmonella then other pathogens will reduce. In case a plant is not meeting this performance standard, it should ensure it takes corrective measures. The third requirement of the system is the establishment of a sanitary environment by plants in their preparation of food. The government requires the facilities to have written sanitation standard operating procedures. They are to use these methods to document and correct sanitation insufficiency. The last requirement is that the plants are expected to test carcasses for volumes of the generic E.coli as proof of the plant’s capability to control fecal contamination of their meat and poultry products. Inspectors are to evaluate if plants abide by this requirement. In the case of any violation, the plant is to take corrective measures or the inspectors can close down the facility.

Import Restrictions: Japanese Case Study

In 2003, United States of America was a leading global exporter of beef and veal. Unfortunately in that year Washington, D.C. recorded a single case of Mad Cow Disease.When humans consume beef containing the disease, their brains begin to degenerate. Upon the U.S. announcement of the case, Japan suspended all of its imports of U.S. beef products. It was a blow to the U.S. as they were losing the principal importer of U.S. beef with the market valued at $1.2 billion in 2003. The United States immediately entered into negotiations with Japan to solve the issue. In October 2004, the two countries jointly announced that they would establish a limited marketing program. In the program, only beef products from cattle who were 20 months or younger at the time of slaughter were to be exported to Japan. United States was also not to export to Japan high-risk area products of beef and veal such as the vertebral column, tonsils and spinal cord. Even after the agreement, Japan was still apprehensive about allowing U.S livestock products into its market. However, in December 2005 it changed her stance and lifted the ban.

On January 2006, Japanese authorities discovered vertebral columns in boxes of veal from a U.S. meat company. Immediately the country banned once more U.S. meat imports. The action provoked the U.S. Congress to address the issue. In March of the same year Congress advocated for the issuance of economic sanctions against the Asian nation. The U.S. was to impose billions of dollars in reprisal import tax on goods from Japan to the U.S. Japan bowed to the U.S pressure and on July 2006, it opened its market for U.S. livestock imports.The situation, however, prompted an outcry from Japanese consumer unions who criticized their government for being political instead of caring about its citizen’s health.


The United States government ensures that before livestock and poultry reach the food supply, they are safe from any pathogens likely to affect human’s health. Apart from inspection measures, the government developed the Pathogen Reduction and HACCP system that ensures food safety. The case study on Japan helps to elaborate the importance of food inspection and also the need to abide by countries import rules. Such information is essential to ensure that food safety is common knowledge to all citizens.

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