The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has released new guidance documents for controlling beef and raw poultry pathogens.

The FSIS Inspection Program Personnel (IPP) announced the availability of the new guidance at weekly meetings with establishment management. The agency regulates 6,500 production facilities. Many produce beef and poultry products.

The “references are guidelines, not requirements,” FSIS told inspectors. They’ll be available until at least Aug.1, 2022. Compiance determinations will continue to hinge on “regulatory compliance.”

Half of the guidelines address the most severe problem facing federal meat inspection — Salmonella and Campylobacter bacteria that account for more than 70 percent of the foodborne illnesses tracked by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Salmonella and Campylobacter, mostly from chicken and turkey, are responsible for 3 million illnesses, costing $6 billion annually. National health goals call for reducing those numbers, but FSIS has not moved the meter in 20 years.

The FSIS guidelines for controlling Campylobacter and Salmonella in raw poultry were drafted in 2015 and published as final documents six years later, on July 28, 2021.

FSIS claims the guidelines will help poultry establishments, including the small and very small, identify and implement pre- and post-harvest interventions to control Campylobacter as part of their HACCP systems.

Additionally, the new Campylobacter guidelines will help poultry establishments with microbial testing for monitoring performance and making decisions.

The Salmonella guidelines, also drafted in 2015, also claim they will help with pre- and post-harvest interventions to control the pathogen as part of a HACCP program. Microbial testing help is also cited as a benefit.

FSIS has its critics for its lengthy process, but the agency may face more severe questioning from food safety advocates who favor an “on-the-farm” approach as being practiced by some European countries.

Guideline documents released for beef, including veal, are designed to minimize Shiga Toxin-Producing E. coli or STEC risk. Slaughter and processing operations are found in separate guidelines.

Here’s how the two beef guidelines, one for slaughter and the other for processing, are explained:

  • This guideline helps establishments that slaughter beef (including veal) to implement effective sanitary dressing procedures designed to prevent carcass contamination; implement effective decontamination and antimicrobial interventions; properly assess microbial testing results, and use the results to assess the effectiveness of the overall HACCP system.
  • This guideline helps establishments producing non-intact and intact cuts intended for raw non-intact beef products to understand the adulterant status of STEC in beef products; design supportable control measures for STEC; develop ongoing verification measures to ensure that STEC control measures are functioning as intended; and respond when the HACCP system fails to prevent or reduce STEC to below detectable levels.

The beef guidelines replace those from 2017.

FSIS  food safety responsibilities include enforcement of the Federal Meat Inspection Act, the Poultry Products Inspection Act, and the Egg Products Inspection Act, as well as humane animal handling through the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act.

The agency’s 8,700 employees support a strategic plan that calls for preventing foodborne illness, modernizing inspection systems, and maintaining a well-trained and engaged workforce.

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