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FSIS Seeks Changes to E. coli Sampling Program for Beef Trim

Redesign would reveal more positive tests

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service is announcing its intention to redesign its E. coli O157:H7 verification testing program for beef manufacturing trimmings to make the program “more risk-based” and to run ongoing statistical prevalence estimates for E. coli O157:H7 in raw beef trimmings.

The notice, published in the Federal Register Wednesday, also discusses FSIS’s plans to perform a beef carcass baseline.

“FSIS seeks public comment on its plans, which have been developed in response to a 2011 audit by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) of FSIS’s protocol for N-60 sampling of beef manufacturing trimmings for E. coli O157:H7,” reads the notice. In 2010, FSIS’s sampling program came under harsh criticism from the OIG and the government auditor made a number of recommendations to the agency.

The announcement also says that FSIS has made changes to its beef manufacturing trimmings program to increase both the collection rate and the likelihood that FSIS will find positive samples.

The notice points out several changes, including that the agency has increased sampling through the “high prevalence season” for E. coli, which is May through October in the United States.

“Because of resource constraints, however, increased sampling during the high-prevalence season will require a decrease in sampling during the low prevalence season.”

The agency notes that it is likely that the changes in sampling will increase the probability of obtaining E. coli O157:H7 positive results in beef manufacturing trimmings during FSIS verification testing by a factor of about 2.5.

FSIS welcomes interested stakeholders to comment on the changes. Comments may be submitted via the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Go to http://www.regulations.gov and follow the online instructions at that site for submitting comments.

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