USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service officials say they will focus on meat retail sectors that grind meat trimmings and on slice deli meat because they haven't been following proper recordkeeping and food safety procedures.
Dan Engeljohn, deputy assistant administrator of FSIS's Office of Policy, Program and Employment Development, told attendees of the North American Meat Processors conference, that the agency has found retail butchers are not maintaining sufficient grinding logs, which causes problems in pinpointing an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak source during a recall. FSIS is developing guidance for retailers on effective corrective steps and is pursuing rulemaking to make recordkeeping requirements more explicit, reports Meatingplace.com.
According to Engeljohn, the agency has found that deli departments generally have insanitary conditions, which raises the risk of a Listeria monocytogenes outbreaks. Agency officials say a person is seven times more likely to die from Listeria after eating deli meat produced by a retailer than by a federal plant.
"I do think that our focus going into the future will significantly be more at retail and in distribution than in the federal plants," Engeljohn said. "We figure that as we have fixed things or things were addressed well in the federal establishments, it's time to go where there is increased risk."
Unlike federal meat plants, retail establishments are not monitored daily by at least one FSIS inspector because current laws do not give the agency inspection authority at such outlets.
"We're showing up by chance and observing risky practices," Engeljohn said. "We've informed industry, and the retail industry in particular, on numerous occasions of the increasing problem in this area, and it hasn't changed. In fact, it's gotten worse."