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USDA Proposes New Food Safety Rule

feedlot USDA by John Nienaber.jpg
US Department of Agriculture
photo by John Nienaber

The U. S. Department of Agriculture is proposing a new requirement for the meat and poultry industry that aims to reduce foodborne illnesses and expensive product recalls.

The ‘Test and Hold’ safeguard would require meat production companies to delay shipments to consumers until government inspectors have released the results of tests on the meat.  The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has inspectors in all meat plants that sample for e. Coli, salmonella, campylobacter and other contaminants. 

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says at the USDA's request, many companies already hold off on shipping meat until the test results are known,  but the new rule would make the policy mandatory.

Vilsack says much of the meat industry has embraced the new rules, in part because the plan could help prevent costly recalls, such as the 2002 recall of more than 18 million pounds of ground beef from what is now the JBS Swift meat packing plant in Greeley.   The agency estimates at least 44 recalls between 2007 and 2009 could have been prevented if the rule had been in place then.