ground beef
Retailers must keep records of ground beef supplier lot numbers, dates and times when grinding equipment was cleaned and sanitized and other information.
DALLAS – The US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) issued its final rule for ground beef record keeping on Dec. 21, 2015. It was supposed to go into effect in June, but was delayed until October of 2016. Hillary Thesmar, vice president, food safety programs, Food Marketing Institute (FMI), discussed the required records retailers must keep and how FMI members have changed to fit into compliance at the 2017 Annual Meat Conference.

The rule states retailer ground beef records must disclose the following:

A. The establishment numbers of the establishments supplying the materials used to prepare each lot of raw ground beef product;
B. All supplier lot numbers and production dates;
C. The names of the supplied materials, including beef components and any materials carried over from one production lot to the next;
D. The date and time each lot of raw ground beef is produced; and
E. The date and time when grinding equipment and other related food-contact surfaces are cleaned and sanitized.

Thesmar said the notices up until now had been “soft” launches. “We’ll probably see a new notice with new instruction to emphasize to personnel about how they should enforce the record keeping rule at retail,” she added.

Thesmar reiterated that the rule does not apply to any other species. “If you’re grinding pork or lamb, or other species, it does not apply to that. If you want to keep records, please do, don’t let it hinder that process, but the rule only applies to beef.”

Ground beef producers can use electronic records or paper records. Both are accepted for compliance. “It does not have to be on a USDA provided form,” she said.

FMI did a survey of its members recently to figure out where their members are and what they’re doing in relation to the rule. FMI surveyed regional chain retailers, national chain retailers, independent operators and wholesalers. These groups answered the question, “As a result of the UDSA’s final rule, have you made any changes in your operation to improve compliance?”

Over 80 percent of respondents said they had made changes to comply with the new rule, such as electronic record keeping, changed or implemented recordkeeping system, added detail to record keeping, modified SOP and changed practices such as no longer grinding bench trim or custom grinds.

“Five years ago, pretty much everyone kept paper records,” Thesmar said. “Now there’s a huge shift we’re seeing a lot of electronic record keeping. So, that’s the power of a regulatory mandate is to shift the industry and to shift the practices of an industry.”

For those that stayed with paper, respondents said they had a lack of technology in the store, cost of a new system, simple grinding processes, the ease of paper record keeping and a system already in place. However, Thesmar was confident that the shift to electronic would continue.

“I think if we measure again in five years, we’ll see an even more dramatic shift toward electronic record keeping,” she said.