WASHINGTON – The American Meat Institute is not aware of data that would support the need to change current policy regarding follow-up sampling and inspection methods, except in the case of high-event periods, said Scott Goltry, its vice president of food safety and inspection services.

Mr. Goltry’s comments, which were submitted to the Food Safety and Inspection Service on the issue of tracing procedures for E. coli O157:H7, reinforce what he said during a recent public meeting to discuss F.S.I.S.’ product-tracing efforts.

“As previously stated in comments to the agency, A.M.I. agrees that each establishment should develop or continue to use process control procedures that are based on findings, corrections and possible changes in production or disposition and react appropriately when there are higher than normal positive tests,” he said. “A.M.I. contends, however, that a set, predetermined number of positive test results defines a high event period for an establishment, as previously mentioned by F.S.I.S., is without basis in science and fact.”

In 2009, A.M.I. said there were 35 federal ground beef verification positives, which resulted in 492 ground beef and 940 raw ground beef component follow-up samples. Thus, there were 40.9 follow-up samples taken for each ground beef positive, evidence that existing E. coli O157:H7 tracing measures are effective.

F.S.I.S. also calculates the percent of E. coli O157:H7 basis using a volume weighted method for verification samples. This metric takes into consideration the production volume as a risk factor. Using this calculation shows the difference in the percent positive rate was much higher is 2005 (0.5%) but shows an improvement to 0.26% in 2009.

In the comments, A.M.I. encourages the agency to adopt or support the control of product pending lab analysis. F.S.I.S. has taken under consideration a petition by A.M.I. that the agency implement a system whereby product tested by the agency must be controlled by the company until the result is known.

A.M.I. said it supports representative sampling of ground beef by F.S.I.S. It also encourages the agency to review ground beef production practices and sample ground beef products that are routinely produced by the processing facility instead of, for instance, a processor grinding a primal, or coarse ground beef, when those products are not routinely used by the business to produce ground beef.

The association also stresses the importance of investigations being completed in a quick and timely manner.

“Because of the potential for illnesses, this investigation, especially of a single occurrence, should be expected to be completed in a day,” the comments state.

To read A.M.I.’s submitted comments, click http://www.meatami.com/ht/a/GetDocumentAction/i/59289