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An Evaluation of the Food Safety Requirements of the Federal Purchase Ground Beef Program
specifications that are based on scientific principles as described in previous National Research Council, ICMSF, and CAC publications—and that state the expected public health benefits where appropriate. This would include specifying the use of pathogen detection methods that are among the most reliable available for use in related food safety programs. It may be appropriate for AMS to collaborate with ARS, FSIS, and CDC and potentially with other groups, such as NACMCF, to develop a risk-based system for assessing public health effects of purchasing specifications not just for frozen ground beef but for various products purchased by AMS for the NSLP and other programs.
Finding C3: Microbiological data collected by processors and AMS to verify compliance with testing requirements in purchasing contracts could be valuable for use in process control, improvement, and future program modifications.
Recommendation C3: AMS should develop a system for regular and continuous use of data collected in its purchasing program for evaluation of program outcomes and process controls applied by suppliers and for developing recommendations for future actions. The committee suggests that if AMS has specific questions about the details of appropriate data analysis methods it discuss the matter further with relevant experts; with FSIS, USDA Office of Risk Assessment and Cost-Benefit Analysis statisticians or risk modelers; or with AMS personnel who are competent to analyze data by using time-series process control analysis.
Finding C4: An important issue that needs attention is the disposition of product lots when testing indicates that they do not meet AMS specifications. The committee determined that the final disposition of such product should be based on scientific principles that protect public health without wasting economic resources.
Recommendation C4: AMS’s goal should be to protect public health by removing potentially unsafe product from the food supply through safe disposition, when advisable, such as directing it to safe further processing, rather than removing it completely from the Federal Purchase Ground Beef Program. In addition to providing guidance as to how such product is diverted, AMS could provide a mechanism for verifying its appropriate diversion. AMS is encouraged to develop science-based approaches for proper use of raw materials that do not meet its specifications.
Finding C5: AMS has identified current hazards of concern in raw ground beef for children in the NSLP (E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella).
Recommendation C5: Although E. coli O157:H7 is the most important concern in raw beef products, other Shiga toxin–producing enterohemorrhagic E. coli serotypes (such as O26, O45, O103, O111, O121, and O145) are also capable of causing human infection. Other enteric pathogens that may occur in ground beef and are considered by experts and public health authorities to be of potential major concern to sensitive populations (such as schoolchildren) are antibiotic-resistant (especially multiple-drug–resistant) strains of Salmonella. The committee believes that it would be useful for AMS to follow developments associated with those pathogens and other emerging pathogens and to create strategies for the protection of vulnerable consumers. It is recommended that AMS apply formal and transparent procedures to perform periodic evaluations of pathogens of concern, including those of emerging concern. Efforts to accomplish that task should be through AMS partnerships with sister agencies, such as ARS and FSIS, but also with CDC and national advisory committees and other organizations.
Finding C6: AMS has sought advice and input from ARS, FSIS, industry, and the National Research Council (the current committee) in establishing and reviewing its specifications.
Recommendation C6: The committee recommends that outreach for advice continue and be expanded by considering the use of existing advisory bodies on microbiological criteria, such as NACMCF, for periodic evaluation of purchasing specifications for meat and other commodities.