A recent National Research Council (NRC) report has apparently found no
scientific evidence to support “more stringent testing of meat purchased
through the government’s ground beef purchase program,” which distributes
products to the National School Lunch Program and other public outlets.
According to a December 9, 2010, National Academies press release, the U.S.
Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) purchases
ground beef from suppliers “who must meet mandatory process, quality,
traceback, and handling controls as well as comply with strict limitations on
the amounts of bacteria in the meat, such as E. coli and salmonella.” To assess
this program, the National Academies established a committee to review the
scientific basis of AMS’s ground beef safety standards, evaluate how these
standards compare to those used by large retail and commercial purchasers,
and recommend possible improvements to the federal system.

The committee evidently found that AMS’s “scientific basis for the current
purchase specifications for ground beef is unclear,” while those standards
used by 24 different large corporate purchasers “vary considerably, likely
because they depend on the intended use of the meat.” It noted, however,
that direct comparisons of federal and corporate purchasers were hindered
by a lack of information “detailing the scientific (or any other basis) on which
these corporate specifications were made.”

Based on these findings, the NRC report has thus urged AMS (i) to strengthen its own purchase specifications with “scientifically sound resources, such as data, formal expert consultation,” and (ii) to keep track of scientific developments “associated with current and emerging pathogens of concern.” It also concluded that “validated cooking processes provide greater assurance of ground beef’s safety than would additional testing for pathogens,” in part because “testing alone cannot guarantee the complete absence of pathogens.” See National Academies Press Release, December 9, 2010.

About The Author

For decades, manufacturers, distributors and retailers at every link in the food chain have come to Shook, Hardy & Bacon to partner with a legal team that understands the issues they face in today's evolving food production industry. Shook attorneys work with some of the world's largest food, beverage and agribusiness companies to establish preventative measures, conduct internal audits, develop public relations strategies, and advance tort reform initiatives.