E. coli tracing procedures 'not broken': A.M.I.

by Bryan Salvage
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WASHINGTON – According to a food safety expert and based on the amount of sampling and testing of ground beef at federally inspected facilities, the traceability of products isn’t a problem. There were 40.9 follow-up samples taken for each federal ground beef verification sample in 2009, which shows existing E. coli O157:H7 tracing measures are effective, according to Scott Goltry, vice president of food safety and inspection services for the American Meat Institute. Mr. Goltry delivered remarks last week during a public meeting to discuss the Food Safety and Inspection Service’s (F.S.I.S.) product tracing efforts.

Last year, F.S.I.S. significantly increased the sampling frequency in high-volume federal ground-beef facilities, Mr. Goltry said. Yet, this focus on volume-based risk, as well as improvements in testing method detection, resulted in a 66% reduction of prevalence from 0.45% in 2008 to 0.3% in 2009.

“As previously stated in comments to the agency, A.M.I. agrees that each establishment should develop or continue to use process control procedures that are based on findings, corrections and possible tightened parameters of production or disposition and react appropriately when there are higher-than-normal positive tests,” Mr. Goltry said. “A.M.I. remains committed that the predetermined number of positive test results to describe a high event period for an establishment, as previously mentioned by F.S.I.S., has no basis.”

A.M.I. also encouraged F.S.I.S. to adopt or support the control of product pending lab analysis.

“F.S.I.S. has taken under consideration a petition by A.M.I. that the agency implement a system whereby product tested by the agency must be controlled by the company until the result is known,” Mr. Goltry said. “It is our belief that this action is an important part of managing food safety risks as is tracing and should be given equivalent consideration.”

F.S.I.S. was also asked by to act positively to comments submitted by A.M.I. regarding boneless beef sampling and labeling, which would provide a means to improve tracing especially for boxed beef trimmings that have multiple distribution methods.

Mr. Goltry also encouraged F.S.I.S. to sample ground-beef products that are routinely produced by a processing facility.

To read his comments, click http://www.meatami.com/ht/a/GetDocumentAction/i/57905.

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