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
What we don’t know is how they will use the
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?
and I agree that we have seen some “change” from the WHFSWG.