FSIS to focus on retailers to improve meat safety

Source of Article: www.meatingplace.com


By Tom Johnston on 3/31/2009


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 conference here.

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.


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