Dozens more recalls may occur as part of plans for contaminated ground beef to be traced back to its source quicker.
The US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) said the procedures will allow it to remove it from commerce and find the root cause of the incident to prevent it from recurring.
Under the plan, FSIS will conduct immediate investigations at businesses whose ground beef tests positive for E. coli O157:H7 during initial testing and at suppliers that provided source materials.
FSIS said the procedures would enable it to better determine whether the establishments that produced the source materials for contaminated product have made other product that may not be microbiologically independent from the contaminated product.
New traceback plans
These traceback investigations will begin as soon as FSIS receives a presumptive positive result and the grinding facility can provide supplier information.
Previously, FSIS began investigations at the grinding facility only after a presumptive positive test result was confirmed, which can take two days.
An investigation of the grinding facility’s suppliers would have been 30 days later, and more intensive investigations of suppliers will also begin immediately.
FSIS will review establishment records to determine whether the grinding or supplying establishment’s food safety system experienced a breakdown.
The agency will determine whether the supplying establishment shipped product that may be contaminated to other grinding facilities or further processors. If so, FSIS will have that product removed from commerce.
The improved traceback procedures will be fully implemented 60 days after publication in the Federal Register on October 14.
Brian Ronholm, deputy under-secretary for food safety, said a critical component of preventing foodborne illness is identifying contamination and removing unsafe products from shelves.
“The expedited traceback procedures being announced today will allow FSIS to take action more quickly, which will make a significant difference in food safety investigations and in preventing foodborne illnesses.”
In September 2011, FSIS made six STEC organisms, in addition to E. coli O157:H7, adulterants in raw non-intact beef product or raw intact beef product for use in raw non-intact beef product.
In June 2012, FSIS started testing beef manufacturing trimmings for these six non-O157 STEC organisms. The agency is gathering information to assess the economic effects of testing for the non-
O157 STECs in raw ground beef components and ground beef.