|August 27, 2014|
Previously published on August 2014
On August 13, 2014, USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service ("FSIS") announced new procedures to improve the process for tracing E. coli-contaminated ground beef back to its source, recalling contaminated product, and determining the root cause of the contamination. USDA expects that the new procedures will help prevent foodborne illness.
FSIS typically tests samples of ground beef for E. coli O157:H7 during the production phase. Under the new procedures, FSIS can inspect a facility or take immediate regulatory action after a sample tests positive for E. coli, eliminating a two-day waiting period for lab confirmation, which FSIS says nearly always matched the initial positive result. Another significant change allows FSIS personnel to scrutinize the supplying s laughterhouse's safety system immediately upon a positive E. coli result, rather than waiting 30 days to conduct a Food Safety Assessment. The new procedure is intended to more quickly trace the contamination to the root cause and identify whether other grinding facilities may be affected. Food Safety Deputy Under Secretary Brian Ronholm elaborates on the new policies in an August 14, 2014, blog post.
These procedures build on other recent USDA initiatives aimed at improving food safety of ground beef, such as new laboratory methods for testing multiple pathogens simultaneously and a proposed rule for recordkeeping by ground beef establishments and retailers. The traceback procedures will be fully implemented later this fall, but interested parties may submit comments on the recordkeeping proposal through September 22, 2014.