Only half of recalled meat and poultry is recovered, study finds

COLUMBUS, Ohio Only about half the meat and poultry recalled in the United States because of suspected health hazards between 1998 and 2002 was actually recovered by the manufacturers, according to a new study.

This and other results suggest new federal food safety regulations that took effect in the late 1990s have not done enough to ensure the safety of our food supply, said Neal Hooker, co-author of the study and assistant professor of agricultural, environmental and development economics at Ohio State University.

"I was hoping that with the new regulations we would have higher recovery rates, but that hasn't happened," Hooker said. "Manufacturers should have a better success rate, but they don't."

The new regulations have had some success there has been a large increase in the number of recalls and the size of those recalls.

"The food supply is probably safer, but only because recalls are triggered more often and more quickly, not because plants are preventing problems before they occur," he said. But the bigger, faster recalls are also due to more sensitive, more rapid tests developed in recent years.

Hooker conducted the study with graduate student Ratapol Teratanavat. Their results appear in the April issue of the journal Food Control.

The new regulations, called the Pathogen Reduction (PR)/Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) program, went into effect in 1998 at large plants (those with 500 or more employees); in 1999 at small plants (with 10 to 500 employees); and in 2000 at very small plants (with less than 10 employees). The program was designed to encourage meat-plant managers to examine their operations, identify the "critical control points" where risks to the food might occur, and put safety precautions in place to prevent potential hazards.

The system also requires detailed records to be kept about production and distribution, said Hooker, who also is a researcher with the Ohio Agric

Contact: Neal Hooker
Ohio State University

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