Final rule extends E coli testing in slaughter operations

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On Jan 25, the USDA-FSIS began requiring facilities that slaughter previously exempt species of livestock and poultry to start testing for generic Escherichia coli. By extending their testing requirements, the FSIS intends to protect public health by further reducing the number of pathogens on meat and poultry.

The final rule, published in the Nov 29, 1999 Federal Register, builds on the Pathogen Reduction/Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point rule. It extends E coli sampling and testing requirements already applied to establishments that slaughter cattle, swine, chickens, and turkeys to establishments primarily slaughtering sheep, goats, horses, ducks, geese, and guineas.

Regular microbial testing by slaughter establishments is considered necessary to verify the adequacy of an establishment's process controls for the prevention and removal of fecal contamination and associated bacteria.

The FSIS is requiring that sampling at sheep, goat, and equine establishments be conducted at the same frequency now required for cattle, one test per 300 carcasses. Duck, geese, and guinea establishments are to sample at the same frequency required for turkeys, which is one test per 3,000 carcasses.

Sheep, goat, horse, duck, goose, and guinea establishments defined as "very low volume" may use an alternate sampling frequency of at least one sample per week, starting the first full week of operation after June 1 of each year. They must continue sampling at a minimum of once each week that the establishment operates until June 1 of the following year or until 13 samples have been collected, whichever comes first.