Safety Zone
By: James Marsden

Bench trimmings and raw ground beef

Source of Article:

(The views and opinions expressed in this blog are strictly those of the author.)

At the recent NAMP Management Conference, Dr. Dan Engeljohn, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service deputy assistant administrator, announced USDA has decided to implement a testing program for E. coli O157:H7 in bench trimmings. This decision by USDA will surely force companies that still use bench trimmings in raw ground beef to reconsider.


If USDA testing turns up a positive result in bench trimmings, the subprimals from which the trimmings were derived could also be considered adulterated and likely subject to recall. Even if an intervention is used for subprimals, the finding of an E. coli positive in bench trimmings cut from those subprimals would suggest that the intervention is not effective. For companies using bench trimmings in raw ground, the possibilities for uncontrolled, massive recalls will be greatly increased due to this testing program.


There are two things that every steak processor should do to reduce the risk of recall:


1.       When subprimals are blade tenderized or needle injected, a validated intervention should be implemented to decontaminate the surface of the product prior to processing. If the intervention is applied after trimming, subprimals would not be implicated even if bench trimmings were found to be positive for E. coli.


2.       All bench trimmings should be used for cooked products or pasteurized using a validated process before being incorporated into raw ground beef or other raw products.


The options for treating raw bench trimmings to eliminate E. coli O157:H7 are limited to High Hydrostatic Pressure (HHP) and irradiation.  HHP is considered a processing and does require labeling. Irradiation is a food additive and, therefore, must be labeled with a Radura symbol.


Clearly, the action Dr. Engeljohn announced is designed to discourage the use of unpasteurized bench trimmings in raw ground beef. USDA is attempting to force the industry to control the formulations for raw ground beef to allow for full traceability and the use of raw materials that have been tested using an N-60 testing system.


Beef processors who do not alter their practices on the use of bench trimmings do so at their own peril.

4/30/2009 7:03 AM 


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