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USDA to require holding of meat products until completion of testing

By Joe Whitworth , 10-Dec-2012

Food producers are soon to be required to hold shipments of non-intact raw beef and all ready-to-eat products containing meat and poultry until they pass foodborne safety tests, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The body’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) requires official establishments and importers to maintain control of products tested for adulterants by FSIS and not allow the products to enter commerce until all negative test results are received.

FSIS anticipates most negative test results will be determined within two days.

Some producers hold products until test results come back but beginning 8 February 2013 all establishments must do so or face a voluntary recall, the product being detained or additional enforcements actions.

Estimated benefits

It estimated that the benefits from the policy range from $12.8m to $37.8m annually due to the reduced cost of recalls and averted illness.

FSIS predictes 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 could have been prevented.

The policy applies to non-intact raw beef products or intact raw beef products intended for non-intact use that are tested by FSIS for Shiga-toxin producing E.coli and any ready-to-eat products tested for pathogens.

USDA said the move is aimed at reducing foodborne illnesses and the number of recalls by preventing contaminated products from reaching consumers.

Policy development

FSIS developed the "hold and test" policy, based on 26 public comments and input received on a Federal Register notice published in April 2011.

One concern to emerge was that small business may have to hold product longer than its shelf life.

FSIS said it will issue guidelines to make it clear that small and very small establishments can produce smaller representative batches of product for sampling.

“This will help small and very small establishments reduce their lot size on a day when FSIS collects a sample.

“Thus, for products with short shelf-life, a firm may produce and hold a lot subject to FSIS sampling that is demonstrated by the establishment to be microbiologically independent from other production lots, conduct a cleanup, and then produce other like product eligible to be shipped into commerce,” said FSIS in the Federal Register.

FSIS has also updated its research priorities for meat, poultry and egg products designed to guide external researchers for study and funding to support their objectives.

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