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Constituent Update - June 7, 2013

Constituent Update - June 7, 2013


FSIS Proposes New Labeling Rules for Mechanically Tenderized Beef Products
FSIS is proposing new requirements for labeling beef products that have been mechanically tenderized, including adding new cooking instructions, so that consumers can safely enjoy these products.

“Ensuring that consumers have effective tools and information is important in helping them protect their families against foodborne illness,” said Under Secretary Elisabeth Hagen. “This proposed rule would enhance food safety by providing clear labeling of mechanically-tenderized beef products and outlining new cooking instructions so that consumers and restaurants can safely prepare these products.”

To increase tenderness, some cuts of beef go through a process known as mechanical tenderization, during which they are pierced by needles or sharp blades in order to break up muscle fibers. Research has shown that this process may transfer pathogens present on the outside of the cut to the interior. Because of the possible presence of pathogens in the interior of the product, mechanically tenderized beef products may pose a greater threat to public health than intact beef products, if they are not cooked properly.

Since 2003, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has received reports of five outbreaks attributable to needle or blade tenderized beef products prepared in restaurants and consumers’ homes. Failure to thoroughly cook a mechanically tenderized raw or partially cooked beef product was a significant contributing factor in all of these outbreaks. In developing this proposed rule, FSIS used data from its own research, from the Agricultural Research Service, and from the CDC to determine the public health risk associated with undercooking mechanically tenderized products, and the benefits of the proposed rule.

The proposal was posted yesterday on the FSIS website at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/regulations/federal-register/proposed-rules and soon will publish in the Federal Register. The comment period will end 60 days after the proposal publishes in the Federal Register and must be submitted through the Federal eRulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov, or by mail to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), FSIS, OPPD, RIMD, Docket Clearance Unit, Patriots Plaza III, Room 8-164, 355 E Street, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20024-3221. All items submitted by mail or electronic mail must include the agency name and docket number, which will be assigned when it is published in the Federal Register.

Faces of Food Safety: Introducing Scott Seys
Fulfilling his dream, today Seys works as an Epidemiologist at the national level with FSIS’ Office of Policy and Program Development (OPPD). In OPPD, he helps to develop food safety policy and guidance published in directives and notices to reduce foodborne illnesses and hazards. “I was excited to take the position in OPPD to explore how to more broadly prevent illnesses using more widespread interventions and policy,” said Seys.

Working with other FSIS staff members, Seys provides critical scientific and technical assistance to field inspection personnel and other field investigation staff through askFSIS, principally concerning allergens, test and hold policies, ready-to-eat (RTE) products and Listeria monocytogenes (Lm). Seys also began developing outreach materials and educational supplements regarding Lm at retail.

To read more about Seys and other Faces of Food Safety, visit http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/informational/aboutfsis/faces-of-food-safety/faces-food-safety-sseys.

Export Requirement Updates The Library of Export Requirements has been updated to reflect changes in export requirements for the following areas:

  • Canada
  • Japan
  • Kuwait
  • Mexico
  • South Africa

Complete information can be found at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/international-affairs/exporting-products.

IFSAC To Hold Webinar
The Interagency Food Safety Analytics Collaboration (IFSAC) is sponsoring a webinar on Tuesday, June 18, 2013, from 4:00-5:00 PM EDT. The webinar will describe IFSAC’s activities and provide an update on its project to improve classification of foods into different categories for attribution analysis.

Preventing foodborne illness is a goal FSIS shares with other agencies and organizations, and those food safety partners can contribute needed expertise and resources to this common effort. For this reason, FSIS established goals in the agency’s 2011-2016 Strategic Plan to both reduce foodborne illness from FSIS-regulated products and strengthen collaboration among internal and external stakeholders to prevent foodborne illness (Goals 1 and 4, respectively).

In working to meet this goal, FSIS, with the FDA and the CDC, formed IFSAC in 2011. This tri-agency analytic collaboration is focused on projects related to foodborne illness source attribution; that is, on improving the data and methods used to estimate the proportion of foodborne illnesses that are caused by specific contaminated foods, including those that are regulated by FSIS. Improving those estimates will improve FSIS’ ability to measure and assess its effectiveness on reducing foodborne illness.

To register for the webinar entitled, “Improving the Categories Used to Classify Foods Implicated in Outbreaks” go to http://ifsac-webinar-201306.eventbrite.com.

Follow Us On Twitter
Find food safety information for at-risk people, along with tips and resources to keep consumers and other interested groups informed of the latest agency news and events. Follow FSIS on Twitter at www.twitter.com/USDAFoodSafety.

Also Tweet en Español
The FSIS Spanish language Twitter feed keeps consumers and other interested communities informed of the latest agency news and events and provides useful food safety tips.

Follow FSIS' Spanish Twitter account at www.twitter.com/usdafoodsafe_es.

Registration Open for RCC Dialogue on June 20
The U.S.-Canada Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC) is organizing a RCC Stakeholder Dialogue Session to solicit input from stakeholders across the range of sectors included in the RCC effort. The U.S. Department of Commerce sent out invitations to the event on May 29, 2013, and FSIS is following-up with this announcement. The stakeholder event will be held in Washington, D.C., on June 20, 2013, at the Embassy of Canada, and is designed to review progress on the implementation of the Joint Action Plan and seek input on the next phase of regulatory cooperation.

To register for the stakeholder event on June 20, or for further information about the RCC, visit www.trade.gov/rcc/. Registration slots are limited, but if you are not able to attend the event, webinars of the discussions will be made available on-line and alternative options to provide feedback will be made available.

Additional information about the RCC can be accessed via the link to the following White House Fact Sheet: www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/12/07/fact-sheet-us-canada-beyond-border-and-regulatory-cooperation-council-in. A copy of the RCC Action Plan, 2012 RCC Progress Report, individual sector work plans and other RCC related information is available at www.trade.gov/rcc/. FSIS and USDA related questions, comments and concerns relative to the RCC initiatives and the stakeholder meeting can also be addressed to RCC-BtB@one.usda.gov. For those unable to attend the stakeholder meetings in Washington, D.C., on June 20, comments for FSIS and other USDA agencies may be directed to this same address for review.

Food Safety Information Available During Severe Weather
We practice basic safe food handling in our daily lives, but obtaining and storing food safely becomes more challenging during a power outage or natural disasters. Residents with questions about the safety of their food as a result of weather damage and power outages are encouraged to call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline (888-MPHotline or 888-674-6854), available in English and Spanish from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. CDT weekdays.

Ask Karen, FSIS’s virtual food safety expert, is available in English and Spanish 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with answers to nearly 1,500 food safety questions. Ask Karen can be downloaded for free for iOS and Android devices.

Updates on FSIS Testing for E. coli
FSIS posts bi-weekly updates for the agency’s raw ground beef E. coli sampling program. Included are testing results of raw ground beef component samples for E. coli O157:H7 and STECs from FSIS routine and follow-up sampling programs. Also featured is data for non-O157 STECs by each non-O157 STEC serogroup.

To review testing results, go to http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/data-collection-and-reports/microbiology/ec/testing-program-for-e-coli-o157h7-and-non-o157-stec.

FSIS Policy Updates
FSIS issues notices and directives to protect public health. All notices and directives are available at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/regulations. The following policy updates were recently issued:

Notice 37-13, Length of Service January, February and March 2013 

Notice 38-13, Interpreting Results of FSIS Verification Sampling of Domestic Beef Product Derived From Advanced Meat Recovery Systems (AMR01/FAMR01)

Get Answers at AskFSIS
AskFSIS is a web-based technology and policy question-and-answer forum on topics such as exporting, labeling, inspection, programs and procedures. In addition, AskFSIS offers Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds that link back to the Q&As.

Visit http://askfsis.custhelp.com/ to view recently posted topics.

FSIS to Hold Public Meeting on HACCP Validation
Last week, FSIS announced in the Federal Register the availability of updated guidance for Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) systems validation. In addition, FSIS announced that it will sponsor a public meeting in Washington, D.C., on June 25, 2013, to review the guidance document.

The public meeting will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., at Patriots Plaza III, First Floor Auditorium, 355 E Street, SW, Washington, D.C. Due to increased security measures, all persons wishing to attend must RSVP in advance.

FSIS will finalize an agenda by June 18 and post it on the FSIS webpage at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/newsroom/meetings. Individuals interested in making a public comment during the teleconference may do so on the registration form.

To view the Federal Register notice, go to http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/13f49670-aeeb-49f6-9f0d-e79983404efa/2009-0019.pdf?MOD=AJPERES

Codex Public Meeting
USDA’s Office of the Under Secretary for Food Safety in conjunction with the FSIS is sponsoring a public meeting to provide information and receive public comments on agenda items, and draft U.S. positions to be discussed at the 36th Session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC), which will be held in Rome, Italy July 1-5, 2013.

The public meeting will be held June 18, 2013, from 1 to 4 p.m. at USDA headquarters, The Jamie L. Whitten Building, 1400 Independence Avenue SW, Room 107-A, Washington, DC 20250.

Documents and agenda items related to the 36th Session will be accessible at: www.codexalimentarius.org. To join the public meeting by conference call, dial 1 (888) 858-2144, participant code: 6208658.

For more information about the public meeting and the 36th Session of the CAC and how to submit comments, go to http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/newsroom/news-releases-statements-transcripts/news-release-archives-by-year/archive/2013/NR-061713-01.