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Preventing Salmonella Contamination in Ready-to-Eat Pork Barbecue
By Kazuhiro Okumura, LTJG, USPHS
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) monitors Salmonella
contamination in ready-to-eat (RTE) meat and poultry products through a random sampling program
(ALLRTE) and a risked-based sampling program (RTE001). Pork barbecue is among those RTE products subject to sampling.
Between 2005 and 2008, there were four Salmonella-positive samples of RTE pork barbecue, which
accounted for 18 percent of the total number of Salmonella positives for RTE products during those calendar
years. In 2009, there was one more positive sample, and in 2010, two samples of pork barbecue tested
positive for Salmonella. The seven positive samples were from six separate plants, all located in the same
State. In addition, a follow-up sample from Intensified Verification Testing (IVT) at one of the six plants also
tested positive for Salmonella.
Because all of the positive samples came from the same State, a more detailed investigation into the causes of
Salmonella contamination of RTE pork barbecue was conducted.
The investigation revealed that the preparation methods for pork barbecue vary by the different regions
of the country. In the region that had the Salmonella-positive samples, the pork is thoroughly cooked. The barbecue sauce is added
after cooking and hot deboning.
One type of barbecue sauce contains vinegar and peppers as the primary ingredients. Recipes show that the
sauce is not heated and may even be used to help cool the pork.
Another type of pork barbecue sauce is tomato-based. The common ingredients for this sauce are vinegar, ketchup,
tomatoes, sugar, spices, etc., that are heated to a simmer or boil to dissolve the ingredients.
All of the Salmonella-positive pork barbecue samples came from plants where the barbecue sauce was vinegar-
and pepper-based, as opposed to the tomato-based barbecue sauce. There are several possible reasons for this finding:
- The ingredients in the vinegar-and pepper-based barbecue sauce, such as the peppers (red, black,
fresh, and dried), molasses, etc., may be a source of the Salmonella contamination, and the acidity of the vinegar
may not be enough to kill or prevent multiplication of any Salmonella that may be present in the sauce.
- Since the sauce is not heated, Salmonella may not be eliminated if the sauce is
contaminated before it is added to the pork. Refrigerating the finished sauce may actually contribute to the survival of the
Salmonella in the sauce.
- The pork and the barbecue sauce are handled extensively during the post-lethality phase (i.e., after cooking), and
contamination from plant employees is possible. Cross-contamination from other products and equipment within
the plant is also a possibility.
- Under-processing is probably the most unlikely reason because the pork is thoroughly cooked. However,
contamination from slaughtered animals in proximity to ready-to-eat foods may be a possibility in some of the plants.
- Finally, animal vectors, such as birds, rodents, and insects, have been shown to contaminate foods with
Salmonella. However, since positive samples were obtained from several different establishments, this is an unlikely reason.
So, now that you know that Salmonella contamination of RTE barbecue pork is an issue of concern, what can you do about it if you're making this product?
Steve Mamber of FSIS' Office of Data Integration and Food Protection has proposed the following steps you
can take to prevent Salmonella contamination if you're producing RTE barbecue pork:
- Review your Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan and all supporting documentation
when addressing possible sources of Salmonella contamination.
- Verify the lethality of the meat component of your product to eliminate the possibility of under-processing.
- Verify that all Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures (SSOPs) associated with the preparation and handling of
the barbecue sauce or its ingredients are implemented.
- Verify the effectiveness of sanitation procedures to prevent cross-contamination
from raw materials, from contact with other products in the production environment, or from other environmental
sources or unusual traffic patterns (e.g., animal vectors, contaminated equipment, clothing, or footwear).
- Verify the effectiveness of employee hygiene practices
to prevent post-lethality contamination of the product by food handlers.
- Test your product and ingredients, such as pepper, as appropriate for Salmonella.
- For the pepper and other ingredients, determine if there are Certificates of Analysis or Letters of Guarantee that
certify that these ingredients are pathogen-free.
- Determine what (if any) antimicrobial treatments (e.g., irradiation, steam, or ethylene oxide) might have been
applied to the ingredients of the sauce.
- Consider changes in the preparation of the barbecue sauce, such as heating the sauce after adding all
ingredients in order to kill contaminants such as Salmonella.
- Try to identify any other potential sources of process failure that could result in Salmonella contamination of your product.
"We encourage all establishments preparing ready-to-eat pork barbecue to review their preparation methods in order to reduce the
risk of Salmonella contamination," concluded Mamber.
If you do get a Salmonella-positive sample finding for a product at your plant, you will be required to identify the
source of the Salmonella contamination and reassess your HACCP program accordingly.
FSIS offers a variety of helpful resources on RTE products and the prevention of Salmonella. If you have any
questions or need additional resources or materials, contact the Small Plant Help Desk at (877) 374-7435 from 8:00 a.m.
to 4:00 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday.
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Guide to Designing a Small Red Meat Plant Now Available Through FSIS
If you have ever thought about building a small red meat plant or expanding/upgrading your existing small red meat plant, then the University of Iowa,
University Extension's Guide to Designing a Small Red Meat Plant With Two Sizes of Model Designs might be just the resource for you.
The guide is intended to assist you in anticipating and avoiding some of the common problems associated
with building, expanding, or upgrading a small scale "locker-type" meat processing plant that slaughters red
meat animals, fully fabricates carcasses, and produces both raw and fully cooked processed meat products.
The guide is not intended to be the sole source of information for constructing or renovating a plant, nor
should the included designs be used as blueprints for construction or renovation.
The Guide to Designing a Small Red Meat Plant With Two Sizes of Model Designs has been reprinted
with updates and is being made available by the Iowa State University, University Extension. FSIS
has arranged with Iowa State University to make this helpful guide available for free to small plants and
other interested persons. Copies of this publication may be ordered online at
Or you can fax a copy of the order form, located in the Food Safety Resources for Small and Very
Small Plants brochure to (202) 690-6519. For further assistance, contact the Small Plant Help Desk at (877) 374-7435 or email
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Commonly Asked Questions & Answers
Q. How should the lot number or production code number be applied to egg products?
A. The lot number or production code number shall be applied to each primary
container and each shipping container when egg products are packaged. It must be legible and may be placed either on the label
or the principal display panel of the container.
The lot number shall be shown as the consecutive day of the calendar year (i.e., the Julian date) on which the product was packaged,
followed by the last digit of the year. The lot number must always contain four digits. For example, product produced on January 7, 2011,
would be identified with lot number "0071" or "007-1." For product produced on July 30, 2011,
the lot number would be "2121" or "212-1."
Plant management is responsible for defining the operational and cleaning procedures used to establish physically separate individual
production lots for purposes of testing programs and in the event of a recall.
Requests to use alternate coding systems must be approved by the local in-plant FSIS Inspector-in-Charge (IIC) through correlation with the
Frontline Supervisor. The Policy Development Division and the Labeling and Program Delivery Division (LPDD) can assist with this review, if
needed. Once approved, changes to an alternate coding system cannot be made without additional review by the IIC.
Product must always be coded with the date of packaging, unless an alternate coding system approved by the IIC specifies otherwise. Record
the applicable production lot number the plant uses on Form PY-203 or Form PY-159 as a permanent record of the alternate coding system.
Extended shelf life claims displayed on labels are label claims and must be supported by an in-plant program that supports the claim being
made. The in-plant program to support the label claim is reviewed by inspection program personnel. All egg products labels are reviewed by LPDD.
Q. Under what conditions can "wyngz" be used as a fanciful term on poultry product labeling?
A. FSIS has a standard of identity in Title 9 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Section 381.170(b)(7), that
defines a poultry "wing." The use of the term "wing" cannot be used on any poultry product unless it complies with this standard of
identity. In comparison, FSIS allows the use of the term "wyngz" to denote a product that is in the shape of a wing or a bite-size appetizer type
product under the following conditions in which the agency considers its use fanciful and not misleading:
- The statement may only reference the term "wyngz" (no other misspellings are permitted).
All labels bearing the term "wyngz" need to be submitted to LPDD for sketch approval because it is considered a special statement that cannot be
- The poultry used is white chicken (with or without skin);
- "Wyngz" is placed contiguous to a prominent,
conspicuous, and legible descriptive name (e.g., "white chicken fritters") in the same color font;
- The smallest letter in the descriptive name is
no smaller than 1/3 the size of the largest letter used in "wyngz"; and
- A statement that further clarifies that the product does not contain any wing meat or is not
derived only from wing meat (e.g., "contains no wing meat," "with no wing meat," "contains breast
meat and wing meat") is placed in close proximity to the descriptive name and linked to "wyngz" by
use of an asterisk. "Wyngz" referenced elsewhere on the package (e.g., on the front riser panel)
would also need to be displayed with an asterisk linking it to this statement on the principal display panel.
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Small Plant NEWS
Editor: Keith Payne
Managing Editor: Jane Johnson, DVM
Production: Joan Lindenberger, Sally Fernandez
Design: Gordon Wilson, Duane Robinson
Contact: Small Plant News, USDA/FSIS, Patriots Plaza III, Rm. 9-267A, Mailstop 3778,
1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250