USDA is ramping up its testing of Shiga Toxin-Producing Escherichia coli - also called STEC. The testing will begin on June 4 and the Food Safety Inspection Service will implement routine verification testing for the six added STECs as announced in the Federal Register this week.
The comment period on this testing was opened in September 2011.
This is an initial implementation of the testing. FSIS says it will "announce in a future Federal Register notice the date it intends to implement routine verification testing for the specified STECs in additional raw beef productes tested by FSIS for E. coli O157:H7, including ground beef.
Initial testing will begin only with raw beef manufacturing trimmings, but the agency is planning to expand testing in the future.
The agency says that FSIS will begin conducting for-cause food safety assessments in response to FSIS positive non-O157 STEC sampling and testing in beef manufacturing trimmings. This 90-day period will provide establishments sufficient time to make any necessary changes to their food safety systems.
FSIS expects to collect and analyze these screen results from its verification tests for at least the first year of testing. FSIS will not consider the product associated with non-confirmed results to be adulterated. FSIS believes that the information on these screen results will be useful to establishments in enhancing the preventive controls in their food safety systems and believes that establishments will benefit from knowing whether they have screen-positive but not confirmed sample results for E. coli O157:H7 or the specified non-O157 STECs. FSIS is considering providing the information to establishments every quarter - in an effort to help with the transition to the enhanced testing.
This new rule impacts all beef processors where manufactured trimmings are present.
FSIS will issue a Federal Register notice announcing when FSIS will begin routine sampling and testing for the seven STECs of all raw beef products subject to Agency E. coli O157:H7 sampling and testing, from both domestic and international sources, regardless of the slaughter date of cattle from which the product is derived. When expanded testing begins, mixtures of raw beef derived from cattle slaughtered either before or after June 4, 2012, whether the production lot contains raw beef manufacturing trimmings, other raw ground beef components, bench trim, or ground beef, will be subject to testing for the seven specified STECs.