Concluding that voluntary recordkeeping has not been “sufficiently effective,” the USDA has issued a proposed recordkeeping rule for all makers of raw ground beef products, which 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, and the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has had difficulty tracking ground beef back to its source. For example, in the 2011-2012 ground beef Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak, involving beef sold at Hannaford grocery stores, FSIS could not trace the contaminated meat back to its source because of the limited records kept by Hannaford. FSIS estimates that only 12 percent of independent retail stores currently maintain logs; of those 12 percent, they calculate that 78 percent are incomplete.
If finalized, the rule would require retail supermarkets and other ground beef makers to keep a grinding chart or log containing detailed supplier information, 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 and related surfaces are cleaned and sanitized.
Traceback is an “ethical responsibility” for supermarkets and others who make ground beef, says Craig Wilson, vice president of food safety and quality assurance for Costco. “This is something Costco has been out in front of for a number of years.” Costco initiated manual source traceback for ground beef approximately eight years ago, Wilson says; about eight months ago, the company moved to an automated system.
The proposed rule is available for comment until September 14, 2014.