U.S. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) has proposed the Meat Safety and Accountability Act, which would mandate quicker, more extensive actions by USDA inspectors to trace meat products back to their points of origin when they are adulterated or contaminated with pathogens such as E. coli O157:H7 or Salmonella.
According to Tester's legislation, USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service would charged with designing and implementing an initiative to trace tainted meat back to the original source of contamination. It also would expand testing at meat suppliers and individual meat processors in the case of an outbreak, reports Meatingplace.com.
In a news release, Tester said his legislation is designed to hold "the right people accountable when something goes wrong," such as potentially life-threatening outbreaks. He also said the legislation would "help small meat processors in rural America that too often get blamed for contamination that didn't begin with them."
The bill states that federal meat inspection programs need to identify all sources, including the slaughterhouse, of the original adulteration or contamination of enteric foodborne pathogens in meat when either laboratory samples test positive or when such meat is found in commerce, including foodborne outbreaks.
Enteric pathogens are those that emanate from within animals' intestines, such as E. coli and Salmonella. Currently, USDA launches traceback actions when E. coli O157:H7-tainted meat is found to be the cause of an illness outbreak, but does not necessarily do so every time routine in-plant test results show an E. coli O157:H7 positive.
The legislation calls on the USDA Secretary to implement sampling protocols that allow FSIS to rapidly trace potential adulteration and contamination of meat and meat food products by enteric foodborne pathogens to possible preceding sources, including preparation, packaging and slaughter establishments, to determine the original site source.
You can find out more about the proposed legislation.