As I noted in an earlier post on a different blog about the USDA’s decision to, in a matter of speaking, take its head out of the sand and recognize that E. coli O157:H7 is a problem that starts (and someday will hopefully end) with the slaughter and dressing process, the agency is finally appearing to take a more reality-based (which is to say, less industry-biased) approach to ensuring food safety. For the earlier post, see here:www.foodpoisonblog.com/2009/05/food-policy-regulation/usda-sees-the-light-on-e-coli-o157h7-and-meat/#comments
Specifically, the only way that meat gets contaminated is because insufficient care was taken during slaughter and feces or ingesta cross-contaminates the previously uncontaminated carcass. Knowledge that this cross-contamination is commonplace is what has given rise over the years to post-slaughter “interventions” like steam-pasteurization and organic acid washes. Put bluntly, there is no need to try to remove the poop on the meat if it does not end up there in the first place.
Since the Pathogen Reduction; HACCP Final Rule was issued in 1996, it has been the stated policy of the USDA that E. coli O157:H7 be reduced to an "undetectable level." This is the so-called zero-tolerance policy for this deadly pathogen, which is based on the irrefutable fact that if the “presence [of E. coli O157:H7] can be prevented, no amount of temperature abuse, mishandling, or undercooking can lead to foodborne illness.” See HACCP Final Rule, 62 Fed. Reg. at 38,962. Now, seemingly more intent at make zero-tolerance a reality, USDA yesterday issued notice that it was mandating an increase in the frequency of its in-plant testing for E. coli O157:H7 in raw ground beef. While this is an improvement, it is but a baby step, since the most frequent testing that will occur under this policy is 4 times per month, and this is only at plants that produce volumes of ground beef greater than 250,000 pounds PER DAY.
For more on this change in policy, please click on CONTINUE READING.