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Group Praises New FSIS Notice That Requires Inspectors To Know Source Suppliers Before Positive E. coli Test Results

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Billings , Mont. R-CALF USA is quite pleased to learn that the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). on Oct. 8, 2010, issued a formal notice that now requires inspection personnel to record information on both the source materials and suppliers at the very time such personnel sample ground beef and boneless trim for E. coli O157:H7 instead of waiting for a positive E. coli O157:H7 result before they gather supplier information.

"Finally, after a battle for more than eight years, FSIS is requiring documentation of source information at the time of evidence gathering," said John Munsell, R-CALF USA HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) Committee Chair.

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In an April 19, 2010, letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, R-CALF USA wrote that it was concerned that FSIS was more focused on potential E. coli problems at beef processing plants further downstream because the vast majority of those businesses which are merely the destinations of previously contaminated meat totally depend on meat purchased from upstream, source-slaughter providers.

The FSIS notice also states: "These instructions will better serve FSIS's goal to respond to"positive results by identifying all affected product and all potential suppliers as quickly as possible to protect public health""

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"This new policy will correct the problems associated with USDA's historical policy of focusing its enforcement actions primarily against small, victimized processors further downstream," Munsell continued. "The agency's insulation of the large source plants from liability has reaped predictable results: ongoing E.coli outbreaks and recurring recalls. USDA's historical policy has provided a comfort level to the agency, circumventing any need for delicate FSIS enforcement actions against the large source plants which enjoy political clout and substantial economic largesse. USDA has been paralyzed with fear of potential litigation emanating from the largest source slaughter plants.

"Realizing that USDA has long favored the interests of multinational/corporate agriculture over those of consumers and producers, we are hopeful that USDA and FSIS are sincere in elevating food safety to the highest of priorities," he concluded. "USDA has long been captured by the very industry it is supposed to regulate, and we hope this step is a first step toward reversing that trend."

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R-CALF USA, Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America, represents thousands of U.S. cattle producers on domestic and international trade and marketing issues. R-CALF USA, a national, non-profit organization, is dedicated (more...)

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