The USDA has been busy this summer in working to improve the meat and poultry industry.
It started when USDA’s FSIS announced it will start double testing on ground beef samples: Every time it tests for STEC in a sample, it will also test for Salmonella. Once FSIS collects enough data about Salmonella prevalence in ground beef, it’ll create a new standard to encourage ground beef processors to strengthen their own Salmonella controls.
The USDA then issued a proposed recordkeeping rule for all makers of raw ground beef products that would require them to keep detailed information on all their meat sources. Retail outlets frequently mix cuts of beef from various sources to make their ground beef, creating difficulty in tracking ground beef back to its source during a recall. If finalized, this rule would require retail supermarkets and other ground beef makers to keep a log containing such detailed info as supplier lot numbers and product dates, names of supplied materials, amount of beef component used in each lot, date and time each lot of ground beef product is produced, and date and time when equipment are cleaned and sanitized.
And most recently, a final regulation was issued on food safety inspection in poultry processing plants along with an optional New Poultry Inspection System (NPIS) that would prevent up to an estimated 5,000 foodborne illnesses each year. Improving upon an inspection model that dates back to 1957, FSIS will now require all poultry companies to take measures to prevent contamination, rather than addressing it after it occurs. All poultry facilities will have to perform their own microbiological testing at two points in their production process. These requirements are in addition to FSIS’ own testing, which will continue. The NPIS involves poultry companies sorting their own product for quality defects before presenting it to FSIS inspectors, allowing inspectors to focus less on routine quality assurance tasks and instead focus more on food safety. As a result, more inspectors will be available to more frequently remove birds from evisceration lines for close safety exams, take samples for testing, check plant sanitation, verify safety compliance plans, observe live birds for signs of disease or mistreatment, and ensure plants are meeting regulations.
With USDA’s efforts in addressing issues like testing, recordkeeping, and inspections, hopefully bacteria can be kept at bay so the American public can better enjoy future summer barbeques!