The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA’s FSIS) has come up with a better way to determine the source of foodborne outbreaks linked to ground beef. If the new plan works, these efforts will stop outbreaks sooner than ever before.

Historically, retail stores have produced ground beef by mixing products from various sources. This can slow down an outbreak investigation because these retailers do not keep clear records that would allow investigators to determine which supplier produced the unsafe product. Now, FSIS is requiring all ground beef product producers to keep “adequate records of the source material”. This will give the agency exactly what they need to quickly contact suppliers in the event that contaminated products need to be recalled.

  • Recordkeeping regulations will require retailers that grind raw beef to maintain the following records:
  • the number 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
  • 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. Retail stores regularly produce raw ground beef for consumer sales by mixing cuts of beef from various sources.

“This is a common-sense step that can prevent foodborne illness and increase consumer confidence when they purchase ground beef,” says 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.”

“The traceback mechanism provided for in this final rule will facilitate recall efforts that could stop outbreaks and prevent additional foodborne illnesses,” says 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.”   

This new requirement will be coupled with expedited traceback and traceforward procedures that went into effect in August 2014.

Sign up for Food Safety Magazine’s bi-weekly emails!