Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

New Meat-Inspection Rules Won't Eliminate Risks

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

New Meat-Inspection Rules Won't Eliminate Risks

Article excerpt

BEFORE YOU lick your chops over visions of rare hamburgers, consider this: Even when the new, more stringent regulations for inspecting meat and poultry go into effect, there will still be plenty of harmful bacteria to go around.

New Department of Agriculture regulations will require 75 percent of the meat and poultry production in this country to be under a new inspection system within the next 18 months.

The new techniques will rely on microbial testing instead of the current poke-and-sniff method. But they will not eliminate salmonella and campylobacter, two of the major human pathogens; instead, the methods will reduce their levels.

The new plan will permit 49.9 percent of the ground turkey sold to contain some salmonella, as it will 44.6 percent of ground chicken and 20 percent of whole chickens.

Only 7.5 percent of ground beef and up to 2.7 percent of the other beef cuts will be allowed to contain the bacteria. These criteria reflect the current national average in meat and poultry plants, according to data collected by the Agriculture Department.

The Agriculture Department will test for salmonella in meat and poultry, and the industry will be required to test for the presence of generic E. coli, bacteria that are found when there has been fecal contamination. The permissible levels for E. coli are also based on what the industry has already achieved.

There will be no tolerances for E. coli 0157:H7, the bacteria found in beef that was responsible for the deaths of four children in 1993.

The consumer rules that applied five years ago to the safe handling of meat and poultry still apply. They include:

Wash hands, utensils and work surfaces that touch raw meat and poultry before and after handling the food, using hot soapy water.

Do not allow raw meat or chicken to sit at room temperature for more than 30 minutes.

Cook food thoroughly. …

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