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US to accelerate tracking of tainted meat

Zoom in font  Zoom out font Published: 2012-05-07  Views: 111
Core Tip: The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is set to implement new regulations to accelerate the process of tracking E.coli in meat, a move which would quickly identify the source of contamination and improve food safety.
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is set to implement new regulations to accelerate the process of tracking E.coli in meat, a move which would quickly identify the source of contamination and improve food safety.

Under the new policy, USDA inspectors would begin tracing the source of the contaminated meat, as soon as initial testing shows a potential problem.

As soon as a batch of meat tests presumptively positive for E.coli O157:H7 - the common strain of E. coli, the agency will begin efforts to link companies, products, and the pathogen to the source supplier.

Under the current regulations, USDA inspectors would have to wait for multiple E.coli confirmation tests before taking an action, which may take several days.

The new process, which will allow officials to start investigation immediately, may help in identifying the source of E.coli about 24 to 48 hours sooner.

USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Elisabeth Hagen said the additional safeguards will improve the agency's ability to prevent foodborne illness by strengthening the food safety infrastructure.

"Together, these measures will provide us with more tools to protect our food supply, resulting in stronger public-health protections for consumers," Hagen added.

According to USDA, about 13,000 to 15,000 samples of ground beef and beef trimmings are screened for E. coli annually, of which, 65 to 75 samples are tested presumptively positive, and 95% of the samples are later confirmed positive through additional screening.

The new regulations will also require meat and poultry firms to establish procedures for recalling meat and notify the USDA about a potential shipment of contaminated meat within 24 hours.

The new policy will be implemented in July, following a 60-day period during which public will be allowed to comment on the regulation.
 
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