The proposal, if adopted, will require new recordkeeping by both processing establishments and retail facilities that grind raw beef products.
The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is scheduled in the next few days to issue a proposed rule that, if adopted, would require both processing establishments and retail facilities that grind raw beef products to maintain records in a newly prescribed format that will delineate source materials and the identity of suppliers as well as any carryover from one production lot to the next. According to FSIS, such a requirement is a necessary public health measure that will assist it and other agencies in their efforts to effectively conduct recalls, particularly in situations where there is evidence of a contaminated product with pathogenic strains of E. coli. The proposal asserts that the absence of such detail, particularly at the retail level, has led to situations where the effective trace back to the source of such contamination has been frustrated.
The proposed regulation would apply to both official processing establishments, where FSIS maintains a continuous inspection presence, and retail-exempt facilities, where it does not. In this latter area, the agency appears to be breaking new ground with such specific regulation in an area that has traditionally been ceded to state and local control. As such, adoption of the rule may establish a broader precedent for the agency to extend its reach into the operational details of the broad universe of facilities that conduct final preparation of meat and poultry products for human consumption without ongoing federal inspection.
The proposed rule also represents a significant new recordkeeping requirement at the retail/grocery level and should be examined closely by such businesses. Submission of comments to FSIS detailing potential recordkeeping burdens and logistical concerns will be important to ensure that the proposal balances practical considerations with the intended food-safety goals.
Comments to the proposal will be accepted by FSIS for 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.