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AMS Plans to Remove Zero-Tolerance for Salmonella and Allow for Irradiation in Ground Beef Specifications

Tuesday, March 27, 2001

According to Dr. Ken Clayton, Acting Administrator of AMS, the agency will be announcing new specifications for commodity ground beef later this week. Among the changes, AMS plans to: 1) remove the zero-tolerance for Salmonella policy and base testing programs on appropriate indicator organisms; 2) require an additional anti-microbial intervention step at slaughter (for a total of two approved interventions); 3) require a carcass testing program for E. coli O157:H7; and 4) accept bids for irradiated meat to be offered through the program.

Boning operations will be required to have effective quality control programs in place that allow them to meet microbial limits for indicator organisms. Processors that exceed the statistical process control limits or exceed the critical limits more than five percent of the time will become "conditional." Product from “conditional” suppliers that fails the critical limit will be rejected. Conditional suppliers that are unable to meet the specification limits within 30 production days will be deemed ineligible suppliers. AMS will verify process control through audits, including random testing.

AMS will develop a grinder's quality history by testing the first 20 production lots of ground meat. If the results are within the limits of the specification, the grinder will be deemed eligible and AMS will test no less than 20 percent of finished ground meat for indicator organisms to verify effectiveness. If the first 20 production lots exceed limits, or exceed the critical limits of the specification more than five percent of the time, they will become a “conditional” grinder. Actions for “conditional” grinders mirror those for “conditional” suppliers.

Daily testing for E. coli O157:H7 will continue and positive results will result in lot rejection. Product to be cooked or irradiated under FSIS inspection is exempt from E. coli O157:H7 testing

This information was verified by AMS personnel. However, the complete specifications will not be available until the end of the week on the AMS website.

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