USDA bolsters procedures for detecting and removing unsafe ground beefUSDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) launched new expedited tracing procedures that will allow the agency to trace contaminated ground beef back to its source more quickly, remove it from commerce and find the root cause of the incident.

“A critical component of preventing foodborne illness is quickly identifying sources of contamination and removing unsafe products from store shelves,” said Brian Ronholm, deputy under secretary for food safety.  “The expedited traceback procedures being announced today will allow FSIS to take action more quickly, which will make a significant difference in food safety investigations and in preventing foodborne illnesses.”

Under the new procedures, FSIS will conduct immediate investigations at businesses where ground beef tests positive for E. coli 0157:H7 during initial testing and at supplies that provided source materials. The traceback investigations will begin when FSIS receives a presumptive positive result and the grinding facility can provide supplier information. According to FSIS, beginning investigations at the point of a presumptive positive test result can save the agency valuable time.

“As part of the traceback investigation, FSIS will review establishment records to determine whether the grinding or supplying establishment’s food safety system experienced a breakdown,” the agency said. “(FSIS) will also determine whether the supplying establishment shipped product that may be contaminated to other grinding facilities or further processors. If so, FSIS will take steps to have that product removed from commerce.”

While it is a step towards preventing foodborne illnesses, FSIS estimates that dozens more recalls may occur once these new protections are in place.