CHICAGO — USDA's Food Safety and Inspection
Service will pay more attention to retail establishments that grind
trim and on retailers that slice deli meat because they haven't been
following proper recordkeeping and food safety procedures, an agency
official told attendees of the North American Meat Processors
Dan Engeljohn, deputy assistant administrator of FSIS's Office of
Policy, Program and Employment Development, said the agency has found
that butchers in retail establishments are not sufficiently maintaining
grinding logs, which complicates the process of pinpointing the source
of an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak during a recall. The agency is
developing guidance for retailers on effective corrective steps and is
pursuing rulemaking to make more explicit the types of records that
should be kept, he said.
Engeljohn also said the agency has found that deli departments
generally have insanitary conditions, which raises the risk that an
outbreak of listeria monocytogenes would occur. The agency says a
person is seven times likelier to die from listeria after eating deli
meat produced by a retailer than by a federal plant.
"I do think that our focus going into the future will
significantly be more at retail and in distribution than in the federal
plants," Engeljohn said. "We figure that as we have fixed
things or things were addressed well in the federal establishments,
it's time to go where there is increased risk."
Unlike federal meat plants, retail establishments are not monitored
daily by at least one FSIS inspector because current laws do not give
the agency inspection authority at such outlets.
"We're showing up by chance and observing risky practices,"
Engeljohn explained. "We've informed industry, and the retail
industry in particular, on numerous occasions of the increasing problem
in this area, and it hasn't changed. In fact, it's gotten worse."
Engeljohn said the agency first would have to do some testing, such as
swabbing for contaminants in deli areas, to determine which outlets are
the riskiest in order to make recall investigations more efficient.