WASHINGTON – The US Dept. of Agriculture has finalized a new rule the agency says will enhance its ability to investigate foodborne illness outbreaks connected to ground beef.

The Food Safety and Inspection Service of the USDA is amending its recordkeeping regulations to require all official establishments and retail stores that grind raw beef products maintain records of:

• the establishment numbers of establishments supplying material used to prepare each lot of raw ground beef product;

• all supplier lot numbers and production dates;

• the names of the supplied materials, including beef components and any materials carried over from one production lot to the next; and

• the date and time each lot of raw ground beef product is produced; and the date and time when grinding equipment and other related food-contact surfaces are cleaned and sanitized.

FSIS said the new requirements also apply to raw beef products that are ground at an individual customer’s request when new source materials are used. The agency noted that outbreak investigations can be hindered when retail stores mix beef from various sources but fail to keep clear records that would help investigators to determine which supplier produced the contaminated beef.

“This is a common-sense step that can prevent foodborne illness and increase consumer confidence when they purchase ground beef,” said Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Al Almanza. “In the event that unsafe product does make it into commerce, these new procedures will give us the information we need to act much more effectively to keep families across the country safe.”

The final rule can be viewed here: