Beef industry lists best ways to combat E coli O157:H7

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Nov 18, 2003 (CIDRAP News) – Leaders of the US beef industry last week released sets of recommended "best practices" for eliminating Escherichia coli O157:H7 contamination at slaughter plants and in grinding operations.

Release of the guidelines was the result of a commitment the industry made at an E coli "summit" meeting last January in San Antonio, Tex. About 200 officials at the meeting pledged to reduce and eventually eliminate E coli O157:H7 from US beef.

The best practices were compiled and reviewed by the Beef Industry Safety Council (BIFSCO), which includes representatives of cow and calf producers, feedlot operators, processors, retailers, and foodservice operators.

Dave Theno, senior vice president for quality and logistics for Jack-in-the-Box restaurants, commented in a news release from the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA), "This is unprecedented in our industry. Companies and operations that are otherwise competitors have come together to share their best work and create a blueprint for the entire beef industry based on what we know as beef manufacturers to be highly effective at reducing E. coli O157:H7."

The recommendations come in four documents, covering slaughter, raw ground products, handling of "sub-primal" beef cuts, and spinal cord removal. The guidelines on spinal cord removal include recommendations on sampling and testing to ensure that meat produced by "advanced meat recovery" (AMR) systems is free of central nervous system tissue. The documents, ranging in length from seven pages for spinal cord removal to 45 pages for ground products, are available on the BIFSCO Web site (see links below).

The beef slaughter recommendations discuss several pathogen-control interventions for carcasses, including steam vacuuming to remove visible contamination, hot water or steam pasteurization, and the application of an organic acid, such as lactic or acetic acid.

The document on raw ground products does not recommend specific antimicrobial treatments for use on raw materials before grinding or on finished ground products. It does say that such treatments are being studied and that grinding operators should explore the use of new technologies as they become available. It also says that approved interventions are listed in an appendix, but that appendix was blank as of this writing.

In the next few months, best-practice recommendations will be completed for beef production, retail, and foodservice operations, according to the NCBA news release. All the recommendations will be periodically reviewed and updated to reflect scientific and technological advances, officials said.

See also:

"Best Practices for Raw Ground Products"
http://haccpalliance.org/alliance/BPforGB903.pdf

"Best Practices for Beef Slaughter"
http://haccpalliance.org/alliance/BestPracslaught1003.pdf

"Best Practices for Handling Vacuum-Packed Sub-Primal Beef Cuts"
http://haccpalliance.org/alliance/VacPkdBestPrac903.pdf

Guidelines for the removal of spinal cord tissue and sampling and testing of AMR product
http://www.haccpalliance.org/alliance/spinalcordremoval.pdf

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