Under a proposed rule, retailers that grind meat from different sources would be required to keep detailed records.

WASHINGTON – The American Meat Institute, along with the North American Meat Association and the National Grocers Association sent a letter to the US Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service asking for more time to provide input on the agency's proposed rule on traceback protocols for ground beef.

“The Proposed Rule would impose new requirements on retailers and official establishments and in many instances those new requirements are particularly burdensome,” the letter states. “Even a cursory review of the agency’s economic analysis reveals that FSIS has significantly underestimated the costs the proposed rule would impose.”

Under the proposed rule, retailers that mix cuts of beef from various sources would be required to keep detailed records identifying the source, supplier and names of all materials used in the preparation of raw ground-beef products.

“The improved traceback capabilities that would result from this proposal will prevent foodborne illness by allowing FSIS to conduct recalls of potentially contaminated raw ground products in a timelier manner,” said USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Brian Ronholm in July. “By requiring retail outlets to maintain improved records on sources for ground products, the proposal will enable FSIS to quickly identify likely sources of contaminated product linked to an outbreak.”

FSIS cited ineffective recordkeeping by retailers that grind raw beef as the impetus behind the proposed rule.

But the industry groups argue that, if implemented, the rule would impose additional investments in recordkeeping systems, technology or both; additional training of employees and major operational changes in meat departments. The groups said the 60-day comment period was not enough time for industry stakeholders to provide meaningful input. The comment period is set to expire on Sept. 22.

“Affected companies need more time to assess the impact of the Proposed Rule and provide the Agency with comprehensive comments,” the groups said in the letter. “Providing an additional 60 days will result in a more informed and better rulemaking and in the process likely enhance public health.”