The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), a branch of the USDA, has launched a new data analyzing system called the Public Health Information System (PHIS). This new web-based system will automate inspection systems and data streams into one comprehensive program, which will be launched on May 29, 2012.
There are four components of PHIS: domestic inspection, import activities, export activities, and predictive analytics. Import activities are an important part of the program, especially since the most recent nationwide foodborne illness outbreak, caused by Salmonella Bareilly and S. Nchanga bacteria, was linked to raw ground tuna imported from India. In fact, the FDA recently inspected the Indian plant, Moon Fishery, where the tuna was produced and found significant food safety violations. That same plant recalled more raw tuna products last week for possible Salmonella contamination.
PHIS will help FSIS verify the effectiveness of foreign food safety systems, since importers will file for FSIS inspection before shipments arrive. Electronic certificates will allow the agency to receive advance notice of a certified foreign shipment.
The government predicts that agencies will be able to respond more quickly when a threat is realized. The ability of inspectors to trace contaminated food to its source and investigate outbreaks will be enhanced, which may stop foodborne illness outbreaks more quickly. Identifying trends as they occur will help FSIS identify food safety risks and find and solve issues before contaminated food reaches consumers.
Some of PHIS directives include:
- Verifying an establishment’s food safety system
- Prioritizing schedules of food safety systems
- Granting or refusing inspections
- Managing establishment profiles
- Performing sampling tasks in establishments
PHIS will help FSIS food safety inspectors keep up to date on verification tasks, inspection, and sampling. Data coming in from food facilities will be monitored on a daily basis for issues and problems. In addition, establishment profiles will be expanded and personnel will document findings and regulations, whether or not the establishment is in compliance.
The goal is to prevent adulterated products from entering commerce in the first place. This proactive approach is endorsed by the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010.