FSIS proposes changes to Salmonella verification for raw beef



Changes may be on the way for Salmonella testing in raw beef products.

In a Federal Register notice published today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced a proposed plan to discontinue its current program for Salmonella verification procedures and to replace it with new protocols that involve testing samples for Salmonella that were collected for Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) analysis. However, current Salmonella sampling procedures will continue in establishments whose results for their most recently completed data exceeded Salmonella standards.

Under the new plan, all samples of raw ground beef, beef manufacturing trimmings, bench trim and other raw ground beef products will be tested for Salmonella in addition to STEC. Sample sizes for Salmonella analysis also are slated to increase from 25 grams to 325 grams.

The changes follow several recent outbreaks of Salmonella in ground beef products. In the notice, FSIS notes the revised protocols, “will likely improve FSIS’s ability to detect Salmonella by increasing the raw ground beef analytic sample portion for Salmonella analysis and increasing the number of establishments being sampled at any given time”.

FSIS tests raw ground beef for seven STECs, including E. coli O157:H7, the most well-known strain of pathogenic E. coli.

The Salmonella verification program began in 1996; however, FSIS halted Salmonella testing in steers, heifers, cows and bulls because the number of positives was low as less than 1 percent. Currently, FSIS is using random sampling to ensure plants meet Salmonella standards. Under the new procedure, FSIS will be able to test more samples at less cost.

Additionally, after three months of data are collected, FSIS has indicated it plans to conduct a risk assessment and create a revised Salmonella performance standard for raw ground beef at 325 grams.

Salmonella is one of the most common foodborne illnesses in the U.S. with about 42,000 cases each year, although many cases are unreported because of mild symptoms.

The proposed plan is open for comments until September 27.

Read the full Federal Register notice here.

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