USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service has issued a notice in the Federal Register outlining new information regarding its nationwide market-hog microbial baseline data collection program.

Participating packers will collect samples for at least 12 months. Testing will involve collecting carcass sponge samples at pre-evisceration and post-chill from market hogs slaughtered in federally inspected slaughter plants. Only market hogs will be tested. Boars, feral swine, roaster pigs and sows are excluded from the study. Under the program’s designation, sponge samples will be collected from the belly, ham and jowl of certain hog carcasses.

The goal is to provide baseline data on the percentage of positives and quantitative levels of selected foodborne pathogens and microorganisms as indicators of process control. These can include Salmonella, generic Escherichia coli, Enterobacteriaceae, coliforms and aerobic plate counts.

The samples are non-regulatory. Therefore, FSIS will not take regulatory actions based on these results, say officials. Consequently, participating establishments will not be required to hold any sampled carcasses or production lots.

Source: FSIS, Meatingplace.com