The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has outlined a series of measures to conduct future meat product trace backs in a “pre-emptive” manner to catch E.coli O157:H7 contamination at an earlier stage.
The USDA hope that the new policy measures, which will be implemented by the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), will significantly improve its and the US meat industry’s ability to trace contaminated materials in the food supply chain.
The notice, Changes to FSIS Traceback, Recall Procedures for Escherichia coli O157:H7 Positive Raw Beef Product, and Availability of Compliance Guidelines, outlines the FSIS plans to better prevent contaminated products reaching consumers.
It hopes to boost its ability to move quicker to identify the supplier of a potentially contaminated product and any processor that received contaminated products.
“The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is announcing proposed new procedures that it intends to implement when FSIS or other Federal or State agencies find raw ground beef presumptive positive for Escherichia coli (E.coli) O157:H7,” said the notice.
“This methodology will enable FSIS to better determine whether the establishments that produced the source materials for contaminated products have produced other products that may not be microbiologically independent from the contaminated product.”
The Agency has also announced its intentions to now request a recall if an establishment was the sole supplier of beef trim source materials for ground products found positive for E.coli O157:H7.
“The additional safeguards we are announcing today will improve our ability to prevent foodborne illness by strengthening our food safety infrastructure,” said USDA undersecretary for food safety Dr Elizabeth Hagan.
“Together, these measures will provide us with more tools to protect our food supply, resulting in stronger public health protections for consumers.”
In recent years, the FSIS has introduced several complementary measures to ensure the safety of the US food supply.
A zero tolerance approach to six Shiga toxin-producing E.coli (STEC) serogroups in ground beef products is set to come into force in coming weeks.
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is preparing to launch a testing programme to detect E.coli O26, O103, O45, O111, O121 and O145. Any product found to contain these serogroups will be prohibited from sale.
The FSIS has also introduced a ‘test and hold’ policy to reduce consumer exposure to unsafe meat products as well as specific labeling requirements.
The FSIS has requested comments on the policies in the notice, which it will evaluate before making any necessary changes to the policies and procedures.