April 2010 by a request from USDA for an assessment of the AMS ground beef safety requirements by an independent body. The National Research Council was asked to perform the assessment and to provide a report to AMS and FSIS.

COMMITTEE’S STUDY APPROACH

The committee’s statement of task is as follows:

An NRC-appointed committee will evaluate the scientific basis of current food safety requirements of the Federal Purchase Ground Beef Program and prepare a letter report of its findings. In the course of its study, the committee will examine technical and other documents that describe food safety measures required of suppliers of ground beef to the Program. Such measures include food safety requirements in the process of manufacturing ground beef items and the testing of materials (including laboratory accreditation and procedures established by those laboratories for selection, delivery, analysis, and reporting of findings of samples) throughout the process, from slaughter to delivery of product to the recipient. The study will also examine how USDA standards, methods, and requirements compare to those used in the large purchasing programs of industry leaders who supply ground beef products directly to the consumer through retail sales or food service operations. The committee will seek input from suppliers, food safety experts, and other entities involved in purchasing ground beef on a large scale.

The committee’s report will present the committee’s evaluation of the scientific validity of USDA's current technical requirements and methods and a benchmark of USDA processes and methods relative to those in recognized industry-leader programs. The report will also provide recommendations to USDA on how to perform future periodic evaluations relative to recognized best practices.

On the basis of the statement of task, the committee considered the following as its charge: to evaluate the scientific basis of the AMS technical documents that describe food safety requirements for suppliers to the Federal Purchase Ground Beef Program and procedures for testing laboratories, to examine how the AMS standards, methods, and requirements compare with those used in large purchasing programs of industry leaders that supply ground beef products directly to consumers through retail sales or food service operations, and to provide recommendations to AMS for conducting periodic evaluations of the Federal Purchase Ground Beef Program.

The committee examined the scientific basis of the AMS July 2010 TRS-GB (USDA-AMS, 2010a) and of the June 2010 Statement of Work (SOW) for AMS-accredited laboratories (USDA-AMS, 2010b), and it considered ARS and FSIS representatives’ answers to questions posed by the committee during its second meeting. To address the second task, the committee requested, through a representative of an industry association (Scott Goltry, American Meat Institute), microbiological specifications for retail and commercial food service entities that purchase ground beef directly from meat companies or indirectly from purchasers or suppliers. The committee used the combined knowledge that it gained in addressing the first and second tasks and its own collective expertise and judgment to address the third task—to provide recommendations to AMS for evaluating its program.



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