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USDA to Mandate Test and Hold

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will soon withhold the stamp of inspection until test samples come back negative, an agency official announced at the National Meat Association’s conference in Bellevue, Washington yesterday.

Kenneth Petersen, assistant administrator of the Office of Field Operations for USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, said the agency will issue a Federal Register notice on the matter within the next two to three months.

Petersen told Meatingplace USDA will not solicit comments on the new rules.

ground-beef13-featured.jpgAccording to Meatingplace, “Meat processors will be able to move the product–even as far as to a customer’s loading dock–but the shipment cannot be completed, the product cannot leave the processor’s control or be handed over to the buyer until the test results are confirmed.”

The new rule will apply to pathogens the agency defines as adulterants.

As Meatingplace noted yesterday, the practice of waiting for confirmation of test results, also known as “test and hold,” is a widespread industry practice.

The American Meat Institute has long urged the industry to adopt test and hold policies. In October 2009, Patrick Boyle, president of AMI, sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack asking that the agency mandate test and hold. Boyle noted in the letter that more than 80 percent of the recalls due to of E. coli O157:H7 and all recalls due to the presence of Listeria monocytogenes during 2009 could have been prevented if tested products had been held.

Boyle lauded USDA’s announcement yesterday, “We are pleased that USDA has responded affirmatively to AMI’s petition,” he said in a statement. “While test and hold has become a widespread practice voluntarily, making the procedure mandatory will prevent recalls, further enhance safety and maintain consumer confidence.”

© Food Safety News
  • hhamil

    This action is the clear evidence that the food safety plan required by the USDA’s FSIS is NOT truly HACCP and calling it HACCP is dissembling.
    Dr. Bill Sperber has hit this point again and again, most recently in “Food Safety Magazine’s” April/May 2010 issue in “Shifting the emphasis from product testing to process testing” (http://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/article.asp?id= 3609&sub=sub1)
    The inability of sampling to eliminate low incidence rate problems was why HACCP was created because sampling can NOT assure perfection!
    The USDA decision is based on politics NOT science. Also, it helps continue to divert attention from FSIS’s unwillingness to question the impact of the way in which the animals are raised upon the presence of pathogens in the food which comes from them. Contrast that with the Performance Standards for Produce Safety in Sec. 105 of S 510 that the FDA is already writing for fruits and vegetables which cause many fewer outbreaks of food-borne illness.
    Please note, despite the fact that this will be a change of law with substantial financial impact; the FSIS intends to publish it without comment. This is a clear violation of the spirit, if not the letter, of the requirements of federal administrative ruling making.
    The FSIS is doing as the big processors requested without even seeking public input from others.
    And, is it simple coincidence that small processors in rural areas will clearly be hit hardest financially by this new requirement? Pugs Leap Farm (a grade B goat cheese dairy in Sonoma County, CA) pointed to the lack of a local lab as one the several reasons it is closing in anticipation of legislated HACCP for dairies that would come from S 510 or HR 2749.
    This demonstrates clearly key aspects of the foolishness of the industrial-size-only approach to food safety legislation of S 510/HR 2749.
    It is another example of “the worms coming out of the woodwork” of legislated HACCP but I’ll bet that almost all of the supporters of the S 510/HR 2749 approach will hail this as clearly improving food safety when in fact it is another band-aid of a failing food safety regulatory system.

  • Harry Hamil

    This action is the clear evidence that the food safety plan required by the USDA’s FSIS is NOT truly HACCP and calling it HACCP is dissembling.
    Dr. Bill Sperber has hit this point again and again, most recently in “Food Safety Magazine’s” April/May 2010 issue in “Shifting the emphasis from product testing to process testing” (http://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/article.asp?id= 3609&sub=sub1)
    The inability of sampling to eliminate low incidence rate problems was why HACCP was created because sampling can NOT assure perfection!
    The USDA decision is based on politics NOT science. Also, it helps continue to divert attention from FSIS’s unwillingness to question the impact of the way in which the animals are raised upon the presence of pathogens in the food which comes from them. Contrast that with the Performance Standards for Produce Safety in Sec. 105 of S 510 that the FDA is already writing for fruits and vegetables which cause many fewer outbreaks of food-borne illness.
    Please note, despite the fact that this will be a change of law with substantial financial impact; the FSIS intends to publish it without comment. This is a clear violation of the spirit, if not the letter, of the requirements of federal administrative ruling making.
    The FSIS is doing as the big processors requested without even seeking public input from others.
    And, is it simple coincidence that small processors in rural areas will clearly be hit hardest financially by this new requirement? Pugs Leap Farm (a grade B goat cheese dairy in Sonoma County, CA) pointed to the lack of a local lab as one the several reasons it is closing in anticipation of legislated HACCP for dairies that would come from S 510 or HR 2749.
    This demonstrates clearly key aspects of the foolishness of the industrial-size-only approach to food safety legislation of S 510/HR 2749.
    It is another example of “the worms coming out of the woodwork” of legislated HACCP but I’ll bet that almost all of the supporters of the S 510/HR 2749 approach will hail this as clearly improving food safety when in fact it is another band-aid of a failing food safety regulatory system.

  • Doc Raymond

    Harry, I agree with much of what you say today, but to say that produce causes “many fewer outbreaks of food-borne illness” I have to raise issues with . Both CDC and CSPI have attribution data that will refute your statement. Produce is indeed the number one cause of documented food borne illnesses, and we are only realizing that because of PulseNet and the good work CDC is doing in bringing what used to be isolated illnesses together as outbreaks because of PulseNet and PFGE testing. Ten years ago, you would have been correct to the best of our knowledge, but not so today.