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Stricter testing for federal ground beef program may not lead to safer meat
Date:12/9/2010

ound considerable differences in testing and safety standards and suspected that the intended use of the ground beef could account for the variations. For example, all raw AMS ground beef is distributed in frozen form, but distributors of fresh meat products may require different standards designed to improve shelf life. While AMS safety requirements appear comparable to or more demanding than those of commercial companies on the surface, the lack of information detailing the science used for corporate specifications prevented the committee from making direct comparisons.

Additional specifications under the AMS program call for testing food samples and surfaces at the suppliers to look for the presence of "indicator" microorganisms that could denote unsanitary conditions, improper hygiene and processing techniques, post-processing contamination, and storage-temperature abuse. Although a reduction in the number of indicator organisms implies a reduction in the amount of pathogens, the presence of an indicator does not guarantee that a pathogen is also present, the committee said. For an indicator to be an effective predictor of a pathogen's presence, a statistical association needs to be established. Therefore, the committee recommended that AMS assess the usefulness of its microbiological data as a scientific basis for testing for indicators.

"The report encourages AMS to strengthen its established specifications and requirements for ground beef by utilizing a transparent and clearly defined science-based process," said Gary Acuff, chair of the committee and professor and director of the Center for Food Safety at Texas A&M University, College Station.

In addition, the report says that some of the requirements were founded on expert opinion and industry practices where the scientific basis was unclear. The committee recommended that AMS base their requirements on standards supported by the International Commission on Microbiological
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Contact: Jennifer Walsh
news@nas.edu
202-334-2138
National Academy of Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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