Agency Plans to Mandate Raw Beef Source Records

     WASHINGTON (CN) - The Food Safety and Inspection Service plans to require businesses that grind raw beef to keep records of where it comes from, to help identify the source of foodborne illnesses like E. coli and salmonella.
     Some retail stores and other establishments that grind raw beef do not keep records about the source of their meat, which makes foodborne illnesses, such as E. coli and mad cow disease, difficult to trace back to their source.
     After 15 customers of a Maine grocery store became sick with a strain of drug-resistant salmonella in 2011, the store recalled fresh ground beef. When the Food Safety and Inspection Service examined the store's records, it was not able to find the suppliers of the beef.
     In a 2009 investigation of an E. coli outbreak across nine states, the majority of people sickened by the bacteria reported they had eaten ground beef, the agency noted.
     Retail stores and official establishments are subject to voluntary recordkeeping based on industry guidelines, which the agency says "has not been sufficiently effective" because of incomplete and inaccurate records.
     In light of the difficulties in tracking foodborne illness sources, the has agency proposed requiring retail stores and official establishments that grind raw beef to keep better records about where the beef comes from.
     Records would include information about the cattle lot where the beef originates so the government can conduct recalls efficiently and quickly. Stores and other facilities would also "disclose the identity of the supplier, the source of all materials that they use in the preparation of each lot of raw ground beef product, including any carryover from one production lot to the next, the amount of the beef component used in each lot (in pounds), and the date and time each lot of raw ground beef product is produced."
     The records would also note dates and times for when equipment is cleaned and sanitized.
     If adopted, the rule could affect more than 75,000 establishments, such as grocery stores, meat markets and warehouse clubs.
     Along with ground beef, ground chicken causes more hospitalizations than other meats in the U.S. food supply, according to a 2013 report by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
     The Center for Disease Control estimates that 48 million Americans are sickened by foodborne illnesses every year, and around 3,000 die.