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Constituent Update - August 15, 2014

Ground Beef Procedures Strengthened

Expedited traceback and traceforward investigations will more quickly identify source of contaminated ground beef, remove unsafe product from commerce, prevent foodborne illnesses.

On Aug. 13, 2014, FSIS announced new procedures that will allow the agency to trace contaminated ground beef back to its source more quickly, remove it from commerce and find the root cause of the incident to prevent it from recurring. The changes being announced today build on other initiatives the agency has instituted this summer to improve the safety of ground beef, including a proposed requirement that retailers keep records of their ground beef source suppliers as well as new laboratory methods to test these products for multiple pathogens at one time. 

“A critical component of preventing foodborne illness is quickly identifying sources of contamination and removing unsafe products from store shelves,” said Brian Ronholm, Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety. “The expedited traceback procedures being announced today will allow FSIS to take action more quickly, which will make a significant difference in food safety investigations and in preventing foodborne illnesses.”

Under the new traceback procedures, FSIS will conduct immediate investigations at businesses where ground beef tests positive for E. coli O157:H7 during initial testing and at suppliers that provided source materials. These traceback investigations will begin as soon as FSIS receives a presumptive positive result and the grinding facility can provide supplier information. Previously, FSIS began investigations at the grinding facility only after a presumptive positive test result was confirmed, which can take two days. A similar investigation of the grinding facility’s suppliers would have taken place 30 days later, and more intensive investigations of suppliers will now also begin immediately. Beginning investigations at the point of a presumptive positive test result can save FSIS valuable time. 

As part of the traceback investigation, FSIS will review establishment records to determine whether the grinding or supplying establishment’s food safety system experienced a breakdown. The agency will also determine whether the supplying establishment shipped product that may be contaminated to other grinding facilities or further processors. If so, FSIS will take steps to have that product removed from commerce.

By expediting investigations and more quickly removing unsafe product from commerce, FSIS is taking another step to strengthen public health protections and prevent foodborne illnesses.

The improved traceback procedures will be fully implemented 60 days after publication in the Federal Register on Oct. 14, 2014. The Federal Register Notice is available at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/a054fc30-2af6-4ea5-a9e9-468c2df788e8/2011-0009.pdf?MOD=AJPERES. More information about FSIS’ proposed requirement that retail facilities maintain grinding logs to improve the agency’s ability to identify the source of contaminated ground beef and assist with traceback procedures can be found at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/newsroom/news-releases-statements-transcripts/news-release-archives-by-year/archive/2014/nr-071614-01. An explanation of new laboratory methods the agency is using to gain better public health information from each ground beef sample tested can be found at http://blogs.usda.gov/2014/05/16/food-safety-scientists-double-up-on-ground-beef-testing-this-summer.  

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 37-14, Procedures for Notifying the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
  • Notice 38-14, Certifying Products Under the Export Verification and the Less Than 30 Months of Age Verification Quality System Assessment Programs
  • Notice 39-14, Clarification and Expansion of Sampling Eligibility Criteria for the Routine Beef Manufacturing Trimmings (MT60) and Bench Trim (MT55) Sampling Programs
  • Notice 40-14, Notification of Availability of Revised Document for Pre-Harvest Management Controls and Intervention Options for Reducing STEC Shedding in Cattle

Export Requirement Updates

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

  • Japan (Egg Products)
  • People’s Republic of China
  • Republic of Korea

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

Revised Jerky Compliance Guideline

FSIS issued a revised compliance guideline this month called, “FSIS Compliance Guideline for Meat and Poultry Jerky Produced by Small and Very Small Establishments.” The purpose of the guideline is to assist establishments in meeting FSIS regulations related to jerky processing. The guideline also contains recommendations to help industry produce a safe product based on the scientific information available in the literature.

FSIS has updated the guideline based on comments received on the July 2012 version, as well as questions received through AskFSIS. Changes made to the guideline include the addition of a surface preparation step in the step-by-step guide on jerky processing, clarification of the definition of shelf-stability and recommended shelf-stability parameters, and clarification of the documentation that establishments should collect to support that their process effectively addresses hazards. A detailed summary of the comments and FSIS’ responses can be found in the document.

FSIS encourages small and very small meat and poultry establishments that manufacture these products to avail themselves of this guideline. FSIS has posted this compliance guideline on its Compliance Guides Index webpage at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/regulatory-compliance/compliance-guides-index.

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.

Pre-harvest Management to Reduce Shiga toxin-producing E. coli Shedding in Cattle

FSIS is announcing the availability of its updated guidance document on  pre-harvest management controls and intervention options for reducing Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) shedding in cattle. The updated document sets out innovative ways to control pathogens in beef at pre-harvest and pre-harvest pathogen control strategies for animals presented for slaughter.

In addition, the Federal Register notice announcing the guidance summarizes and responds to comments received on the guidance document and on the pre-harvest management issues that FSIS raised in a previous Federal Register notice and public meeting. The guidance is available at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/d5314cc7-1ef7-4586-bca2-f2ed86d9532f/Reducing-Ecoli-Shedding-in-Cattle.pdf?MOD=AJPERES.

Update: 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.

Between June 4, 2012 and Aug. 10, 2014, FSIS laboratory services analyzed a total of 6,710 beef trim samples (5,754 domestic and 956 imported); 1,973 routine follow-up samples (1,859 domestic and 114 imported); and 82 non-routine follow-up/traceback samples. Ninety-one samples were found to be positive; 43 were domestic trim samples, three were imported trim samples, 41 were domestic follow-up samples, and 4 were non-routine follow-up/traceback samples. To date, two samples have been positive for both O157:H7 and non-O157 STEC, and six samples have been positive for two different non-O157 O-groups.

To review testing results, visit the E. coli data tables at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/data-collection-and-reports/microbiology/ec.

FSDZ  on the Road Again

The USDA’s Food Safety Discovery Zone (FSDZ) is back on the road! The FSDZ will be in Allentown, Pennsylvania at the Allentown Fair from August 26 through September 1.

The FSDZ is a 40-foot interactive vehicle that educates consumers about the four food safety messages --Clean, Cook, Separate and Chill-- from the Food Safe Families campaign. Some of the features in the vehicle include a Hand Washing Station, where visitors can learn the proper techniques to washing hands, and the Microscope Station that magnifies harmful bacteria. 

Watch for announcements of upcoming events. For dates, times and more information, go to http://www.fsis.usda.gov/fsdz-schedule.

About FSIS

FSIS is the public health agency in the USDA responsible for ensuring that the nation’s commercial supply of meat, poultry and processed egg products is safe, wholesome and correctly labeled and packaged. To learn more, visit http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/informational/aboutfsis.

Structure and Organization

Numerous offices make up the agency, each playing a key role in protecting America’s food supply. To learn more, visit http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/informational/aboutfsis/structure-and-organization/structure-and-organization.   

Leadership

Agency leadership information can be found at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/informational/aboutfsis/agency-leadership.