Sampling of raw beef manufacturing trimmings for six non-O157 strains of Shiga toxin-producing E.coli (STEC) is set to begin from 4 June 2012, the US Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has confirmed.
The ruling will see the testing of ground beef products for the seven relevant STEC strains, which include O26, O103, O111, O121, O45, O145 as well as the more common O157.
The FSIS, which is a division of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), posted a Federal Register notice on its website to confirm the implementation of the new rule.
Initial plans for the implementation of the routine sampling began in September 2011, when the proposal was met with criticism by the US meat industry and foreign governments.
Routine verification testing
“The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is confirming that it will implement routine verification testing for six Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC), in addition to E.coli O157:H7, in raw beef manufacturing trimmings beginning June 4, 2012,” said the Federal Register notice.
“Beginning June 4, 2012, FSIS will implement routine verification testing for the six additional STECs discussed in this document (O26, O45, O103, O111, O121, and O145), in raw beef manufacturing trimmings (domestic or imported) derived from cattle slaughtered on or after June 4, 2012.”
“To allow industry time to implement any appropriate changes in food safety systems, including control procedures in their processes, FSIS will general not regard raw, non-intact beef products or the components of the products found to have these pathogens as adulterated until June 4, 2012,” the Federal Notice said.
The FSIS added that it will announce, in a future Federal Register notice, the date it intends to implement routine testing for the E.coli strains in question in additional raw beef products, including ground beef.
Meat industry opposition
On 20 September 2011, FSIS published a Federal Register notice announcing its determination that raw, intact beef products that are intended for use in raw non-intact product, that are contaminated with the seven Shiga toxin-producing E.coli (STEC) strains are adulterated.
According to the Federal Register notice, the products are adulterated if “they contain a poisonous or deleterious substance that may render them injurious to health.”
The USDA plans have previously come under fire from the US meat industry as well as governments outside the US.
The American Meat Institute (AMI) and the Australian and New Zealand governments are among those that have attacked the ruling.