Rank risky products to improve food safety: USDA

Posted by Isobel Drake on 27th April 2009

Food safety could receive a boost if regulators created a list to rank the riskiest products, a leading United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) official has suggested.

America has been battered by a series of high profile food safety scares, with salmonella contamination of jalapeno peppers, peanut butter and pistachios in the past year. President Barack Obama has since moved to strengthen the powers of the food regulator (FDA), with a White House panel looking into ways to enhance food safety systems.

The administrator for USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service Administrator, Alfred Almanza, believes a risk ranking list would allow for an improved allocation of resources.

“In order to have a uniform system for inspection I would say that there has to be a risk ranking,” he told a government agriculture subcommittee. “We all need to look at the various levels of risk posed by different food products, and the different performance of the establishments that manufacture those food products, for the entire food supply,”

“When you look at product risk and you look at the risk ranking of where different products stand … I think that’s probably the key for the level of inspection, the amount of inspection, the intensity of the inspection,” Mr Almanza added.

He said a high-risk ranking would factor in the type of food, the risk of producing and manufacturing it as well as the handling of the product.