A new round of testing is about to be implemented for non-intact raw beef and all ready-to-eat products containing meat and poultry.
After the first of the year the Agriculture Department's (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) will require producers to hold shipments of such products until they pass agency testing for foodborne adulterants.
"This new policy will reduce foodborne illnesses and the number of recalls by preventing contaminated products from reaching consumers," USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen said. "Many producers hold products until test results come back. We're encouraging others in the industry to make this a routine part of operations."
Release pending results
The new policy requires official establishments and importers of record to maintain control of products tested for adulterants by FSIS and not allow the products to enter commerce until negative test results are received. FSIS anticipates most negative test results will be determined within two days.
The policy applies to non-intact raw beef products or intact raw beef products intended for non-intact use and that are tested by FSIS for Shiga-toxin producing Escherichia coli. Also, the policy applies to any ready-to-eat products tested by FSIS for pathogens.
FSIS developed the "hold and test" policy, which will reduce consumer exposure to unsafe meat products, based on public comment and input received on a Federal Register notice published in April 2011.
FSIS estimates if this new requirement had been in place between 2007 through 2010, 49 of the 251 meat, poultry and processed egg product recalls that occurred during that time could have been prevented.
One of many
Other actions taken by the USDA include:
- Zero-tolerance policy for non-O157:H7 STECs. On June 4, 2012, FSIS began routinely testing raw beef manufacturing trim for six strains of non-O157:H7 Shiga-toxin producing E. coli (STEC) serogroups. Trim found to be contaminated with these pathogens -- which can cause severe illness and even death -- will not be allowed into commerce and will be subject to recall.
- Labeling requirements that provide better information to consumers about their food by requiring nutrition information for single-ingredient raw meat and poultry products and ground or chopped products.
- Public Health Information System, a modernized, comprehensive database with information on public health trends and food safety violations at the nearly 6,100 plants FSIS regulates.
- Performance standards for poultry establishments for continued reductions in the occurrence of pathogens. After two years of enforcing the new standards, FSIS estimates that approximately 5,000 illnesses will be prevented each year under the new Campylobacter standards, and approximately 20,000 illnesses will be prevented under the revised Salmonella standards each year.