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USDA proposal to ensure tracking of ground meats

Special to the Courier

The US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) recently proposed to require that all makers of raw ground beef products keep records in order to increase protection of consumers. The records would ensure retailers can trace sources of ground meats.
"The improved traceback capabilities that would result from this proposal will prevent foodborne illness by allowing FSIS to conduct recalls of potentially contaminated raw ground products in a timelier manner," said USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Brian Ronholm. "By requiring retail outlets to maintain improved records on sources for ground products, the proposal will enable FSIS to quickly identify likely sources of contaminated product linked to an outbreak."
Retail outlets regularly make ground beef by mixing cuts of beef from various sources. This proposal, if finalized, would require retailers to keep clear records identifying the source, supplier and names of all materials used in the preparation of raw ground beef products.
When foodborne illness outbreaks occur, public health officials work to trace ground beef product back to its source so that any potentially unsafe product can be identified and removed from commerce. Traceback investigations can be hindered when retail outlets 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.
FSIS has concluded that recordkeeping by retail facilities that grind raw beef to date, has not been sufficiently effective. In previous Federal Register notices, FSIS has stressed the importance of maintaining appropriate records, aiding in the identification of FSIS-regulated products associated with foodborne illnesses during recall traceback and traceforward or other food safety incidents.
The proposal is currently posted on the FSIS website at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/regulations/federal-register/proposed-rules. FSIS invites interested persons to submit comments on this proposed rule electronically by going through the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov, or by mail to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), FSIS, Patriots Plaza 3, 1400 Independence Avenue SW, Mailstop 3782, 8-163A, Washington, DC 20250-3700. The comment period will end 60 days after the proposal publishes in the Federal Register.