New USDA Measure Requires Strict Records On Ground Beef Sourcing To Prevent Food Poisoning Outbreaks

Based on previous investigations of food poisoning outbreaks, the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service has announced a new safety measure that will make it easier for the agency to identify the exact source of foodborne illnesses — reports of which have lately flooded the news.

"Under the new final rule, FSIS is amending its recordkeeping regulations to require that all official establishments and retail stores that grind raw beef products maintain the following records: the establishment numbers of establishments supplying material used to prepare each lot of raw ground beef product; all supplier lot numbers and production dates; the names of the supplied materials, including beef components and any materials carried over from one production lot to the next; the date and time each lot of raw ground beef product is produced; and the date and time when grinding equipment and other related food-contact surfaces are cleaned and sanitized," the FSIS said in a statement. "These requirements also apply to raw beef products that are ground at an individual customer's request when new source materials are used."

In the past, outbreak investigations have been complicated by the common retail practice of mixing products from different sources, without records that would have allowed investigators to identify the supplier responsible for contaminated product.

"This is a common-sense step that can prevent foodborne illness and increase consumer confidence when they purchase ground beef," said Al Almanza, deputy under-secretary for food safety. "In the event that [an] unsafe product does make it into commerce, these new procedures will give us the information we need to act much more effectively to keep families across the country safe."