Food (Safety) Fight
By: richard raymond
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How far will bench trim testing go?

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

By now we all know that Secretary Vilsack has announced FSIS will begin routine testing of bench trim as a follow-up to the recommendations of the White House Food Safety Working Group (WHFSWG).

What we don’t know is how they will use the results. 

 Jay Wenther, executive director of the American Association of Meat Processors, expressed his concerns as follows: “With the absence of an UnderSecretary of Food Safety who is directly involved with meat industry issues on a daily basis, it is our hope Mr. Vilsack clearly understands the implications of such an initiative.”  It is my hope also.

First of all, I want to acknowledge that AAMP, NMA and other associations have for years been advising their members to consider having their own bench trim sampling programs, to have intervention steps after trimming or to ensure thermal processing of bench trim if not doing the above.

The first definitive result we should see from this sampling program is some idea of the prevalence of E coli 0157:H7 in bench trim. That might help drive the agency’s next steps, and might also help give industry a nudge along the right path.

The second result could be to keep contaminated trim from going into ground beef, if test and hold is implemented for this program, or will we just see more recalls after product has been sold and consumed?  But from a food safety standpoint, you have to understand that this new activity accounts for only 2-3 samples taken per year per establishment.

The third result, which I do not expect to see, could be to keep contaminated intact cuts of meat out of the super markets, where they could cross contaminate in the consumers’ kitchens.

And lastly, and I assume only a dream in John’s mind, is to go back up to the source of the contaminated bench trim. How many other boxes of contaminated beef from that same carcass, or carcasses from the same time on the line, were sold from that establishment to other further processors who just didn’t happen to have an FSIS inspector pulling a sample from their bench trim generated from that same lot?

 Do this and I agree that we have seen some “change” from the WHFSWG.

8/11/2009 3:05 PM 


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