New benchmarking program for pathogens.

The American Meat Institute (AMI) Foundation has unveiled a new microbiological benchmarking program to help plants compare their microbiological profiles against those of other industry companies. Under the program, each participating plant will submit by overnight delivery a randomly selected sample of product each week using an anonymous identification number. Each sample will be tested for total aerobic plate count, generic E. coli plate count and incidence of Salmonella. Other organisms like Campylobacter and Listeria may be added later based on agreement among participating plants.

Samples will be collected and analyzed according to USDA methods, with chilled carcasses to be sampled one day after slaughter and trimmings sampled at the time of fabrication or when they are received at the grinding operation. Ground product will be sampled at the time of production.

Product categories to be sampled under the program include steer/heifer beef carcasses; cow/bull beef carcasses; barrow/gilt carcasses; sow/boar carcasses; 50 percent beef trimmings; 90 percent beef trimmings; 72 percent pork trimmings; ground beef and ground pork. Participating plants will receive individual sample results on an ongoing basis, and a quarterly report will be provided that shows the results of each sample analyzed in those product categories in which the plant is participating. Results will be shown by plant with mean and standard deviation calculated for each.

The cost of the program is $32 per weekly sample. Plants interested in the program should contact Jim Hodges at 703/841-2000 or jhodges@

FSIS approves North Dakota meat inspection program.

The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced that North Dakota has begun the implementation a state meat inspection program. The North Dakota commissioner of agriculture advised FSIS that the state is in a position to administer a state meat inspection program includes requirements at least equal to those of the federal meat inspection program. FSIS will continue to inspect poultry products in the state.

State-inspected meat and poultry can only be sold within the state. Last fall, USDA forwarded a bill to Congress that would provide for interstate shipment of state-inspected meat and poultry.