OIG Calls on FSIS to Re-evaluate E.Coli Testing02 April 2013
US - The USDA Office of Inspector General (OIG) has called on the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) to re-evaluate its E. coli testing methodology, as it relates to the downstream processing of boxed beef products.
FSIS tests product designated as ground beef or likely to become ground beef, but they do not sample all boxed beef product.
Some downstream processors grind such boxes of unsampled cuts of beef without sampling it for E. coli prior to grinding.
Similarly, “retail exempt establishments”—grocery stores, butcher shops, etc — potentially grind their own ground beef, but unlike Federally inspected plants, FSIS does not sample and test bench trim at these establishments for E. coli.
FSIS does have a programme for periodically testing the final ground beef products at downstream processors and retail exempt establishments before it enters commerce.
Also, FSIS is not testing tenderised meat products for E. coli despite several recent recalls, the OIG found.
FSIS has recently moved to a new Public Health Information System (PHIS), which relies, in part, on correct profile information to accomplish tasks such as sending inspectors E. coli sampling requests.
However, the OIG found some establishments had incorrect profile information, resulting in incorrect requests for sampling.
This profile error caused FSIS not to sample one establishment’s “other ground beef components” for over four years.
However, FSIS did sample the ground product before it left the plant.
The OIG added that not all plants reviewed had adequate records for tracing source material back to the originating slaughter establishment, which is crucial during a recall.
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