A U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of Inspector General audit report titled “FSIS E. coli Testing of Boxed Beef” concludes that the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) must reevaluate its E. coli testing methodology and “take additional steps to ensure that beef to be ground throughout the production process—from Federally inspected slaughter establishments to local grocery stores—be subject to FSIS sampling and testing for E. coli.” According to the report, “FSIS is not testing tenderized meat products for E. coli despite several recent recalls.”
The Kansas City Star noted that the report was issued three months after the newspaper published a series of stories profiling individuals who had apparently been sickened with E. coli poisoning after consuming medium-rare, mechanically tenderized steaks in restaurants. The article highlighted that “the process of mechanically blading that meat uses automated needles or knives to tenderize tougher cuts of beef, forcing pathogens into the center,” where the bacteria may survive if not adequately cooked. FSIS responded to the Inspector General’s recommendations by stating that if it “determines that there is a significant amount of risk associated with the consumption of mechanically tenderized beef products, FSIS will develop a plan with milestones and reasonable timeframes for establishing a sampling and testing program for tenderized products or their components.” The agency’s risk analysis of tenderized beef is scheduled to be published in April 2013. See The Kansas City Star, April 2, 2013.