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AMS Issues Draft Revised Specifications for Commodity Ground Beef and Ground Pork

Monday, April 2, 2001

Last week, AMS issued revised draft specifications for commodity ground beef (Technical Data Supplement or TDS 136) and ground pork (TDS 496) that would remove the zero tolerance for Salmonella in commodity ground beef and allow the use of irradiation for fine ground beef, fine ground pork and beef patty products. Though the specifications are improved, new regulatory requirements are imposed.
Cattle and hog slaughterers must continue segregating non-ambulatory livestock from channels that feed into USDA purchased ground beef and ground pork. In addition, beef slaughterers will be required to use stunning methods other than those involving direct high air pressure injection.
Under the new draft specifications cattle slaughterers must have two pathogen interventions or anti-microbial steps. One intervention must be included as a critical control point (CCP) in a HACCP plan and be one of the following technologies: steam pasteurization, an organic acid rinse or a 180ºF hot water wash. Hog slaughterers will be required to have an unspecified anti-microbial step in their process.
Beef and pork will be required to undergo testing for indicator bacteria using Standard Plate Count (SPC), total coliforms and generic E. coli. Testing limits include: SPC with an upper limit of 100,000/gram and a critical limit of 500,000/gram; total coliforms with an upper limit of 500/gram and a critical limit of 1,000/gram; and generic E. coli with an upper limit of 100/gram and a critical limit of 500/gram. Tests will be conducted by selecting a minimum of 20 pounds of product from each lot, reducing the product in size at least once, then taking a composite one-pound sub-sample of the product. The sample shall be submitted for analysis to a third party independent accredited laboratory. In addition, cattle slaughterers will be required to test carcasses for E. coli O157:H7 routinely. Each lot of USDA ground beef, except for that to be further processed into cooked product or to be irradiated, must be tested for E. coli O157:H7.
Grinding facilities for both pork and beef must have an AMS approved quality control program and must be able to trace the finished product to the supplier’s microbial test results. All test records must be maintained and made available at the grinding facility for AMS review.
Finally, finished ground pork and beef will be rejected if lots (defined as clean up to clean up) do not comply with any of the fat content requirements. In addition, detection of both ferrous and non-ferrous metals will be required for beef and pork products.
AMS has requested comments on the revised draft pork and beef specifications. AMI’s Inspection Committee will be crafting comments in response to the drafts. Both drafts may be viewed online at: http://www.ams.usda.gov/lsg/cp/beef/beef_pork_spec_development.htm

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