The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA’s FSIS) recently announced it has posted new guidelines for poultry processors to better prevent Salmonella and Campylobacter in raw products during slaughter and processing, and new recordkeeping requirements for beef producers to make it easier and quicker to track foodborne illnesses to their source.
A new article explains that historically, retail stores have produced ground beef by mixing products from various sources. This can slow down an outbreak investigation because these retailers do not keep clear records that would allow investigators to determine which supplier produced the unsafe product.
Now, FSIS is requiring all ground beef product producers to keep “adequate records of the source material,” the article states. This will give the agency exactly what they need to quickly contact suppliers in the event that contaminated products need to be recalled.
Recordkeeping regulations will require retailers that grind raw beef to maintain the following records:
- Number of establishments supplying material used to prepare each lot of raw ground beef product
- All supplier lot numbers and production dates
- Names of the supplied materials, including beef components and any materials carried over from one production lot to the next
- Date and time each lot of raw ground beef product is produced
- Date and time when grinding equipment and other related food-contact surfaces are cleaned and sanitized
These requirements also apply to raw beef products that are ground at an individual customer’s request when new source materials are used, the article explains. Retail stores regularly produce raw ground beef for consumer sales by mixing cuts of beef from various sources.
“This is a commonsense step that can prevent foodborne illness and increase consumer confidence when they purchase ground beef,” Al Almanza, deputy undersecretary for food safety, said in the article. “In the event that unsafe product does make it into commerce, these new procedures will give us the information we need to act much more effectively to keep families across the country safe.”
In addition, the agency’s new guidelines for poultry processors make science-based suggestions for interventions that poultry companies can take on the farm (known as pre-harvest), sanitary dressing procedures, further processing practices, antimicrobial interventions, and other management practices.
“These guidelines take into account the latest science and practical considerations, including lessons learned from foodborne illness outbreaks in the last several years, to assist establishments in producing safer food,” Almanza said in an article. “This new guide is one piece of FSIS’s Salmonella Action Plan and our effort to reduce Salmonella illnesses attributed to meat and poultry products by 25% in order to meet the nation’s Healthy People 2020 goals. By following the newer guidelines, poultry facilities can help us reach this important public health target.”
While industry groups, such as the North American Meat Institute and the National Chicken Council, have not commented on the changes, U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro has commented on the changes to the poultry guidelines.
“As a new wave of foodborne illnesses affects the nation, families around the country are gathering for the holidays and are at risk of falling seriously ill from mishandled poultry,” DeLauro said in the article. “While the new guidelines issued by the USDA are an important step, the USDA should declare Salmonella an adulterant as part of their work to protect American consumers from foodborne public health threats. American consumers are counting on the USDA to use the authority it has to prevent unnecessary illnesses and deaths,” she added.
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