New beef rules to take effect in two months

Food companies that sell raw, nonintact beef and ready-to-eat meat and poultry products soon will be required to hold the products until they test negative for adulterants.

The “hold and test” policy, published today by the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), begins in 60 days. It also requires importers and “official establishments” to retain control of such products until they receive a negative test for adulterants, such as Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC).

Hold and test policies already often are in use throughout the industry.

In addition to nonintact raw beef products, the new rule also applies to “intact raw beef products intended for nonintact use” and ready-to-eat products that are tested for pathogens, according to a statement from FSIS.

The rule aims to reduce the public’s exposure to unsafe products.

“This new policy will reduce foodborne illnesses and the number of recalls by preventing contaminated products from reaching consumers,”USDA Undersecretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen said in a statement. “Many producers hold products until test results come back. We’re encouraging others in the industry to make this a routine part of operations.”

Earlier this year, six strains of STEC were deemed adulterants, along with the most well known STEC, E. coli O157:H7. The agency began routine verification testing for the six strains on raw beef trim in June. Food containing adulterants, such as these strains of STEC, are considered unfit for human consumption.

The agency also announced Wednesday that companies that produce raw ground chicken and/or turkey have 90 days to reassess their hazard analysis and critical control point (HACCP) plans.

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