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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

I read Meating Place Daily – USDA FSIS to mandate Test and Hold, Traceback and Non-intact Meat Labeling – Now that is a Mouthful – Safer Too!

According to Meating Place:

USDA plans to propose rules that would mandate test-and-hold practices at meat plants as well as labels alerting consumers when they are buying non-intact meat subjected to mechanical tenderization, according to Deputy Assistant Administrator for USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service Daniel Engeljohn.

Engeljohn told participants at a one-day seminar in Chicago on E. coli O157:H7 prevention presented by the North American Meat Processors Association they can expect to see Federal Register policy documents on those two issues, as well as on new mandatory record keeping requirements that would facilitate traceback at retail when a product is recalled.

Traceback records

"We are often stymied in our traceback investigation efforts at retail. We can’t get beyond retail because the records are too poor," said Engeljohn. The proposed rule would require processors to keep specific types of documents relative to what source materials are used and when they are used to produce products to facilitate a product traceback.

He said the rules would apply to all food products a processor produces, but noted ground beef is where the biggest traceback problems have occurred.

Test and hold

"The industry collectively petitioned the agency to put in place a mandatory test and hold and we think that would be prudent for public health protection," said Engeljohn. He said USDA would be issuing a Federal Regsiter notice on this policy change.

"This is not just specific to ground beef, this would be for any time the agency or the establishment is collecting a verification sample for an adulterant. The policy will be that you must get that test result back before you release that product into commerce," Engeljohn said, noting the policy would still allow product to be moved to another facility owned by the establishment, as long as the establishment maintains control of the product.

Non-intact meat labels

"(USDA) is announcing that it is going to pursue mandatory labeling for non-intact beef products that have been mechanically tenderized; whether it is by blade tenderization or needle injection," said Engeljohn. "We are intending to pursue a regulation that would mandate that product be labeled and that label carried through the processing of that product until it is made into a red meat product."

USDA has been under increasing pressure to label non-intact meat since the December recall of mechanically tenderized steaks by National Steak and Poultry. The American Meat Institute has countered that no special labeling is needed, noting that all steaks in retail stores, whether blade-tenderized or not, must bear safe handling labels instructing consumers how to cook and handle them to ensure they are safe when served.

Current safe handling instructions, however, don’t give specific temperatures and don’t include specific instructions on how to safely prepare a steak, according to Engeljohn.

"It is the agency’s belief there is increased risk associated with mechanical tenderization over and above an intact steak in terms of preparing it. A non-intact product should be prepared differently," he said. "That’s not to say you can’t prepare a rare or medium steak that’s non-intact. The issue is cooking it at the right temperature for the right amount of time."

Damn, John that is more good stuff from USDA/FSIS in one speech than I have seen in several years.  You go!