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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Despite at least two Buffalo or Bison Meat Recalls, are Manufacturers still exempt from E. coli Testing?

The most current version of FSIS Directive 10,010.1 that I could find while sitting in Heathrow Airport states in part:

Fabricated steaks and finely sliced beef (9 CFR 319.15(d)) do not meet the standard of identity for ground or chopped beef product and, therefore, would not be subject to E. coli O157:H7 sampling. Raw beef sausage products are not subject to FSIS’ E. coli O157:H7 sampling and testing. Ground buffalo or bison is also not a raw ground beef product subject to this FSIS verification sampling.

Exempting Buffalo or Bison from testing seems a bit curious because we have now had at least two recalls in the past three years, and given that Buffalo and Bison are known carriers of E. coli O157:H7.

  • In July 2007, Custom Pack, Inc., recalled approximately 5,920 pounds of ground beef and buffalo products because they may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7. Each package bore the establishment number “Est. 5650” inside the USDA mark of inspection. The ground beef products were produced between June 1 and June 13, 2007, and were distributed to restaurants and institutions in Nebraska. The ground buffalo patties were produced on June 7, 2007, and distributed to restaurants and institutions in Colorado.
  • Now in July 2010, Rocky Mountain Natural Meats is recalling approximately 66,000 pounds of ground and tenderized steak bison products after FSIS became aware of the problem during the course of an on-going investigation into a cluster of E. coli O157:H7 illnesses in Colorado with illness onset dates between June 4, 2010 and June 9, 2010. Working in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the New York Department of Health, 5 case-patients have been identified in Colorado as well as 1 case-patient in New York with an indistinguishable PFGE pattern. FSIS determined that there is an association between the ground bison products and the cluster of illnesses in the state of Colorado. These products were distributed to retail establishments nationwide and food service distributors in Utah and Arizona. While the sell-by dates for these products have passed, FSIS and the establishment are aware that consumers may also freeze the product before use and there is concern that some product may still be frozen and in consumers’ freezers. The products subject to recall bear the establishment number “EST. 20247” inside the USDA mark of inspection. These products were produced between the dates of May 21, 2010 through May 27, 2010.

I am about to board my flight. Does anyone know if this exemption is still in place? And, if it is, what is the rationale?

  • Dr. Samuel M. Fassig SPHV

    FSIS Directive 10,010.1
    Products Not Subject To FSIS Sampling
    Fabricated steaks and finely sliced beef (9 CFR 319.15(d)) do not meet the standard of identity for ground or chopped beef product and, therefore, would not be subject to E. coli O157:H7 sampling.
    Raw beef sausage products are not subject to FSIS’ E. coli O157:H7 sampling and testing.
    Ground buffalo or bison isalso not a raw ground beef product subject to this FSIS verification sampling.
    Your comment uses the word exempt and that is not a good word to use. I would urge you to indicate that presently these products are not targeted for testing. If there was an outbreak investigation associated with bison we would collect samples. If over time we find info that bison has become an issue with O157, we would potentially expand sampling programs based on risk. The word exempt gives the impression of never and that isn’t the case.
    If the bison(bufflo)was inspected under custom exempt, the requirements for custom exempt operations (9 CFR 303.1), the regulations that apply to voluntary inspection only require compliance with the sanitation performance standards (9 CFR 416.1 to 416.6 ). Therefore, the Sanitation SOP regulations (9 CFR 416.11 to end ) do not apply to establishments that only operate under voluntary inspection (exotic animals) (9 CFR Part 352)
    As stated in 9 CFR Part 352, inspection of exotic animal products is conducted under the applicable provisions of the Agricultural Marketing Act (AMA) of 1946, as amended. 9 CFR Part 352 does not reference 9 CFR Part 417, which sets out the requirement for HACCP plans. This part of the regulation does require in 9 CFR 352.3(a) that official exotic animal establishments must comply with the provisions of 9 CFR 416.1-416.6 in respect to the Sanitation Performance Standards.