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AMI Defends Current E. coli Tracing Procedures in Comments to FSIS

Thursday, May 13, 2010

(American Meat Institute)

AMI is unaware of any data that would support the need to change current policy regarding follow-up sampling and inspection methods except in the case of high event periods, says AMI Vice President of Food Safety and Inspection Services Scott Goltry in comments submitted to the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) on the issue of tracing procedures for E. coli O157:H7.

Goltry’s comments reiterate much of what he stated during a recent public meeting to discuss FSIS’ product tracing efforts.

“As previously stated in comments to the agency, AMI agrees that each establishment should develop or continue to use process control procedures that are based on findings, corrections and possible changes in production or disposition and react appropriately when there are higher than normal positive tests. AMI contends, however, that a set, predetermined number of positive test results defines a high event period for an establishment, as previously mentioned by FSIS, is without basis in science and fact,” AMI states.

AMI notes that in 2009, there were 35 federal ground beef verification positives, which resulted in 492 ground beef and 940 raw ground beef component follow-up samples. Thus, there were 40.9 follow-up samples taken for each ground beef positive, evidence that existing E. coli O157:H7 tracing measures are effective.

The agency also calculates the percent of E. coli O157:H7 basis using a volume weighted method for verification samples. This metric takes into consideration the production volume as a risk factor. Using this calculation shows the difference in the percent positive rate was much higher is 2005 (0.5 percent) but shows an improvement to 0.26% in 2009.

In the comments, the Institute encourages the agency to adopt or support the control of product pending lab analysis. FSIS has taken under consideration a petition by AMI that the agency implement a system whereby product tested by the agency must be controlled by the company until the result is known. 

AMI notes that it supports representative sampling of ground beef by FSIS. Furthermore, AMI encourages the agency to review ground beef production practices and sample ground beef products that are routinely produced by the processing facility instead of, for instance, a processor grinding a primal, or coarse ground beef, when those products are not routinely used by the business to produce ground beef.

AMI also stresses the importance of investigations being completed in a quick and timely manner.

“Because of the potential for illnesses, this investigation, especially of a single occurrence, should be expected to be completed in a day,” the comments state.

To view AMI’s submitted comments, click here: The link to this document is: http://www.meatinstitute.org/ht/a/GetDocumentAction/i/59289

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