E. coli traceback tactics

by Erica Shaffer
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WASHINGTON – The Food Safety and Inspection Service of the US Department of Agriculture released a directive that details expedited traceback procedures for presumptive-positive tests for E. coli O157:H7 in ground beef and bench trim.

Under the new directive, a presumptive-positive test for E. coli O157:H7 in ground beef will immediately trigger investigations at businesses whose ground beef tests positive for the pathogen during initial testing and at suppliers that provided source materials. Previously, traceback investigations began at the grinding facility only after FSIS confirmed a presumptive positive test result. The confirmation process could take two days, FSIS noted.

The directive also instructs inspection program personnel (IPP) on how to determine whether an establishment has experienced a high-event period (HEP), and information on when enforcement, investigations and analysis officers (EIAOs) are to contact the Office of Field Operations (OFO) Recall Management and Technical Analysis Staff (RMTAS) to request a recall from suppliers.

Additionally, the directive:

• Instructs EIAOs and other IPP on how to conduct product traceback from the grinder or bench trim establishment;

• Instructs EIAOs and other IPP on what an HEP is, and on the steps that they are to take to verify that an establishment’s action in response to an HEP is appropriate;

• Instructs District Office (DO) personnel and OFO RMTAS personnel on actions that they are to take during a product traceback;

• Provides information on requesting that a sole source originating supplier slaughter establishment recall product when FSIS laboratories or another federal or state agency identifies that establishment as having sent product into commerce from a lot that tested positive in a sample collected at the grinder or bench trim (receiving) establishment.
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