The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection USDA FSIS is proposing to require all makers of raw ground beef products to keep records to further protect consumers by enhancing the ability to trace ground beef products.

USDA proposes stricter meat grinding recordkeeping requirements  Currently, retail outlets are required to keep records that will “fully disclose all transactions involved in business,” including bills of sale, invoices, bills of lading, and receiving and shipping papers. Additionally, records must be kept related to the name or description of the livestock, the net weight of the livestock, the number of outside containers, the name and address of the buyer or seller of the livestock, and the date of shipment.

With regard to large retail chains, with more than one location, records may be kept at the headquarters’ office. FSIS has concluded that the current recordkeeping by retail facilities that grind raw beef is not “sufficiently effective.”

“The lack of specific information about supplier lot numbers, product codes, pack dates of source materials used to produce lots of raw ground beef, and when and whether grinding equipment has been cleaned and sanitized has prevented or delayed FSIS from identifying businesses that produced the source materials for product that was positive, the specific product responsible for an outbreak and, therefore, to accurately identify other product that might also be adulterated,” the agency wrote in the proposed rule.

If finalized, retail outlets, including supermarkets and other grocery stores, meat markets, and warehouse clubs and supercenters, that regularly make ground beef by mixing cuts of beef from various sources will be impacted. USDA says these retail outlets will be required to keep clear records identifying the source, supplier, and names of all materials used in the preparation of the ground beef products.

The agency expects the proposed rule to affect 76,093 retail outlets nationwide with a cost to industry between $2.69 and $4.39 million to implement necessary new recordkeeping activities and make those records available to the agency. The agency specifically is asking stakeholders submit comments related to the recordkeeping assumptions made in the proposed rule.

“The improved traceback capabilities that would result from this proposal will prevent foodborne illness by allowing FSIS to conduct recalls of potentially contaminated raw ground products in a timelier manner,” said USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Brian Ronholm. “By requiring retail outlets to maintain improved records on sources for ground products, the proposal will enable FSIS to quickly identify likely sources of contaminated product linked to an outbreak.”

The proposed grinding log rule is now available for public review at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/regulations/federal-register/proposed-rules. Once it is published in the Federal Register, FSIS will accept comments for 60 days.