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Friday, 2nd December 2011

The Potential Consequences of Public Release of Food Safety and Inspection Service Establishment-Specific Data

Source: National Academy of Sciences

From the press release:

Publicly posting enforcement and testing data corresponding to specific meat, poultry, and egg products' processing plants on the Internet could have "substantial benefits," including the potential to favorably impact public health, says a new report from the National Research Council. The report adds that the release of such data could contribute to increased transparency and yield valuable insights that go beyond the regulatory uses for which the data are collected.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is responsible for ensuring that meat, poultry, and processed egg products are safe, wholesome, and properly labeled. It collects voluminous amounts of data at thousands of processing facilities in support of its regulatory functions and is considering the release of two types of collected data on its website. These include inspection and enforcement data and sampling and testing data -- such as testing for the presence of food borne pathogens like salmonella, pathogenic E. coli, and listeria monocytogenes. Some of this information is already available to the public via the Internet but is aggregated and does not contain names of specific processing facilities. ...

The committee that wrote the report examined a substantial body of literature documenting the impacts of disclosing establishment-specific regulatory information similar to that collected by FSIS. Based on this information, the committee believed there are strong arguments supporting the public release of FSIS data that contains the names of processing facilities on the Internet, especially data that are subject to release under FOIA, unless there is compelling evidence that it is not in the public interest to release them.

+ Link to full report (PDF; 1.6 MB)

+ View the publication page for additional availability information


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Peggy Garvin, of Garvin Information Consulting, is the author of United States Government Internet Directory (Bernan Press) and Real World Research Skills, 2009 (TheCapitol.Net). In her 20 years in the information business, Peggy has managed electronic information products and services in a variety of environments, including commercial publishing, e-commerce, law firms, and the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress. Peggy's work has been recognized with the 2011 SLA Dow Jones Leadership Award. She has a Masters of Library Science degree from Syracuse University School of Information Studies.

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