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Meat Industry Trends

Ensuring a safe meat supply

Food industry regulations, particularly for meat and poultry, are becoming more and more prevalent. The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) is responsible for ensuring a safe and wholesome meat supply and making sure that food safety hazards are addressed.

Escherichia coli (E. coli) has been a major food safety hazard in the beef industry. One particular serogroup: Escherichia coli O157:H7 was declared a ground beef adulterant in the early 1990s. Now, six other E. coli serogroups are considered adulterants in raw ground beef.

Meat processors will soon be required to closely monitor the six strains and evaluate whether they are reasonably likely to occur in their products. Tentatively in March 2012, USDA-FSIS will implement a routine E. coli sampling program.

Nutrition labeling

Food product nutrition labels are prevalent in the marketplace and provide consumers with information on a food product’s nutrients. Until recently, meat product nutrition labeling has only been required on multi-ingredient or heat-treated products. However, starting in March 2012, USDA-FSIS will require nutrition labels on major cuts of single-ingredient raw meat and poultry products. Nutrient information can either be on product labels or point-of-purchase information such as signage and brochures.

What is a major cut of meat under these new requirements? Examples include:

• Beef: chuck blade roast, sirloin steak, brisket

• Pork: country style ribs, tenderloin, sirloin roast

• Lamb: shank, loin chop, leg

• Poultry: whole, breast, thigh

The new rule also requires nutrition labels on all ground or chopped meat products that are produced with or without added seasonings — including ground beef, chicken, turkey and pork. For these products, nutritional information must appear on the product label — not just at point-of-purchase. As with most rules, there are a few exemptions — most concern the meat product’s final use when no nutritional claims are made on the product label, and there are some ground or chopped product exemptions as well.

To assist the meat industry, particularly small-scale processors, nutrition labeling materials can be downloaded from the USDA- FSIS website. In addition, if meat processors are members of the American Association of Meat Processors, nutrition labeling materials can be downloaded from the AAMP website.

For more information, contact me at: cnath@auri.org, 507.537.7060.

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