In Depth Chickens

Published on February 28th, 2014 | by Travis Korte


Safe Meat and Poultry Act of 2013

A Senate bill calling for various reforms to federal meat and poultry safety protocols would require the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to implement several new data collection and reporting measures in hopes of reducing foodborne illness and increasing response speeds for food recalls. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), who introduced S.1502, the Safe Meat and Poultry Act of 2013, described  the benefits of the legislation in a statement:

“This legislation contains practical measures to ensure no American gambles with their health when purchasing poultry or meat product. Not only would we reduce foodborne illness, but we also strengthen our nation’s agriculture and food industry.”

The bill outlines measures to bolster data collection and sharing on foodborne pathogens and public health indicators. The USDA would be required to identify and publish a list of the most significant foodborne pathogens, set safety levels and enact surveys to gather data on the prevalence of pathogens contained in the list, and use that data to assess food establishments’ compliance.

The USDA would also be required to implement a system to track animals from slaughter to retail sale, which would incorporate food descriptions, food establishment data, shipping marks, bar codes, and other data. This would enable the department to rapidly identify all potential sites of contamination, regardless of where in the supply chain contaminants are detected.

In addition, the bill would require the USDA to work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to maintain a surveillance system with food and epidemiological data submitted by states to aid in risk analysis and other research. The bill calls on the USDA and the CDC to remove barriers to data sharing between their two entities and with individual states’ data systems. Finally, the bill would require the USDA to maintain a state-of-the-art DNA matching system and epidemiological data system to aid in investigating foodborne illness outbreaks.

The bill, which was introduced in the Senate on September 12, 2013, is pending consideration from the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.

Photo: Flickr User Allie’s.Dad

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About the Author

Travis Korte is a research analyst at the Center for Data Innovation specializing in data science applications and open data. He has a background in journalism, computer science and statistics. Prior to joining the Center for Data Innovation, he launched the Science vertical of The Huffington Post and served as its Associate Editor, covering a wide range of science and technology topics. He has worked on data science projects with HuffPost and other organizations. Before this, he graduated with highest honors from the University of California, Berkeley, having studied critical theory and completed coursework in computer science and economics. His research interests are in computational social science and using data to engage with complex social systems. You can follow him on Twitter @traviskorte.

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