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. Hilary 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 in Dallas.
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. She 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.”
The rule requires producers to track all ground beef. This can create record keeping challenges in some instances, but any beef that goes through a grinder must be recorded and kept track of.
“So if pull backs are taken out of the case and then ground, those also must be tracked and source material must be identified,” she said. “Whether it’s through the package identifier or through records kept in the back of the store. It’s not exempt.”
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.