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Cargill to video meat safety practices

By Jess Halliday , 10-Feb-2010

Cargill is piloting the use of video monitoring at its US beef plants in order to reduce the risk of E.coli and salmonella contamination.

The food giant has already trialled remote video auditing (RVA) at 10 beef-harvesting facilities in the US, and the results are said to have been “terrific”, with a higher compliance rate already identified and competition between plants over performance scores.

The system is now being introduced at the beef facility in Fresno, California. Auditors from Arrowsight Inc will monitor on how consistently workers perform tasks in near-real time, and provide statistical feedback to management.

For the pilot, Cargill is focusing on the stages where workers clean and sanitise knives and other equipment. It will also look at dressing procedures to check proper protocol is followed.

“We’re working to eliminate the opportunity for cross contamination,” said Dr Angie Siemens, Cargill VP for technical services, food quality and safety. “We want to have the steps at the beginning of our process right to enhance the efficacy of our intervention technologies later in the process.”

She said the ultimate aim is to design a “ground-breaking” programme too further reduce E.coli and salmonelle contamination.

The technology behind RVA is being provided by Arrowsight, in partnership with ADT Security Services.

E.coli issues

Cargill has been implicated in food safety cases relating to contaminated meat in the past. In October 2007 it recalled around 845,000 pounds of frozen ground beef patties after Cargill patties were found to be the source of E.coli infection in three people. Previous recalls took place in 2001 and 2001.

Last year New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand tabled proposals to make testing of ground beef for E.coli mandatory. The senator said new legislation was necessary because the meat industry had failed to take corporate responsibility on the matter.

However J. Patrick Boyle, president and CEO of the American Meat Institute pointed to a large reduction in E.coli cases in the last ten years in tests conducted by the Department of Agriculture. He lined this to investment in technology, research and process technology by industry.

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