USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service said on Monday that it would implement a new measure to better determine the source of foodborne illnesses linked to ground beef.
Based on lessons learned from previous outbreak investigations, FSIS is requiring that all makers of raw ground beef products keep adequate records of the source material, so that the agency can quickly work with the suppliers to recall contaminated product.
FSIS says outbreak investigations can be hindered when retail stores produce ground beef by mixing product from various sources but fail to keep clear records that would allow investigators to determine which supplier produced the unsafe product.
The new requirement complements expedited traceback and traceforward procedures announced in August 2014 that enhance the agency's ability to quickly and broadly investigate food safety breakdowns in the event of an outbreak connected to ground beef.
"This is a common-sense step that can prevent foodborne illness and increase consumer confidence when they purchase ground beef," said Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Al Almanza. "In the event that unsafe product does make it into commerce, these new procedures will give us the information we need to act much more effectively to keep families across the country safe."
Under the new final rule, FSIS is amending its recordkeeping regulations to require that all official establishments and retail stores that grind raw beef products maintain the following records:
• the establishment numbers of establishments supplying material used to prepare each lot of raw ground beef product;
• all supplier lot numbers and production dates; the names of the supplied materials, including beef components and any materials carried over from one production lot to the next;
• the date and time each lot of raw ground beef product is produced; and
• the date and time when grinding equipment and other related food-contact surfaces are cleaned and sanitized.
These requirements also apply to raw beef products that are ground at an individual customer's request when new source materials are used.
"The traceback mechanism provided for in this final rule will facilitate recall efforts that could stop outbreaks and prevent additional foodborne illnesses," said Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Brian Ronholm. "USDA is committed to providing resources and assistance to makers of ground beef to ensure they can be a part of this important and essential new public health measure."