The US Department of Agriculture has announced a new method for tracing E. coli-contaminated poultry and meat through the US food chain in order to protect consumers from eating tainted products.
Under the new policy, the USDA will act quicker after the first signs of a potentially deadly spread. The agency previously did not begin investigating possible contaminated meat until several tests were completed, often taking days.
Currently when the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service performs routine E. coli testing of meat and poultry products, they need to have a “confirmed positive” test to instigate the traceback process for contaminants. Under the new rules, the Food Safety and Inspection Service can begin tracebacks if meat or poultry samples result in a “potential positive" test result, which means an investigation can launch 24 to 48 hours sooner than waiting for a confirmed positive test result.
In addition, new regulations require poultry and meat processors, farmers and retail establishments to have recall plans in place, notify federal officials within 24 hours if a contaminated product is found and require better documentation of how they controlled the tainted meat. “The additional safeguards...will improve our ability to prevent foodborne illness by strengthening our food safety infrastructure,” said USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Elisabeth Hagen. “Together, these measures will provide us with more tools to protect our food supply, resulting in stronger public health protections for consumers."