October 20, 2021

Consumers Suffer When Meat-Handling Guidelines Are Ignored

Hannaford Supermarkets, the company at the center of a ground beef Salmonella outbreak that has sickened 19 people in seven states, ignored longstanding federal recommendations on minimizing food safety hazards in raw ground meat.

First published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 1998, Guidance for Beef Grinders and Suppliers of Boneless Beef and Trim Products, specifically states that grinders should “prevent any mixing of product from different suppliers” and should maintain records thorough enough “to identify, trace, and retrieve from commerce any ground beef products that may pose a threat to public health.”

The USDA, which is investigating the source of the outbreak linked to meat produced at Hannaford Supermarkets, has said the company’s inadequate records and practice of packaging ground meat from multiple suppliers have impeded the progress of traceback efforts, which is why the agency has been advising otherwise for almost 15 years.

Unfortunately, the agency has also been telling meat grinders for the last 15 years, that the USDA “guideline does not prescribe regulatory requirements under the Federal Meat Inspection Act.”

Guidelines are not required.  If they were, all meat grinders would know the USDA’s three basic tenets of minimizing the impact of food safety hazards associated with raw ground meat:

“First, grinders and their suppliers should address hazards from pathogens such as E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella in their raw materials, as they are responsible under HACCP to identify and address all hazards reasonably likely to occur.

• Second, grinders and their suppliers should realize that they are in an excellent position to implement process and distribution controls that address public health hazards associated with ground beef, such as E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella.

• Third, there must be an emphasis throughout the production and distribution chain on maintaining the records that are necessary to identify, trace, and retrieve from commerce any ground beef products that may pose a threat to public health. “

And they would know why it’s important to keep products from different suppliers separate:

“Grinders receiving product from more than one supplier should prevent any mixing of product from different suppliers. Keeping product from different suppliers separate will prevent any potentially E. coli O157:H7-contaminated source material from adulterating source materials from other suppliers. By separating raw materials from different suppliers, grinders will be able to identify the potential source of any E. coli O157:H7-contaminated product should the pathogen be detected. If ground beef produced from raw materials coming from a supplier is confirmed positive for E. coli O157:H7, FSIS intends to notify the supplier that they may have supplied E .coli O157:H7-positive product to a grinding establishment or retail facility.”

And they would have an example of how to keep good records, as outlined in the agency’s Sanitation Guidance For Beef Grinders issued last week:

Good records include:

1. Producing store name

2. Address

3. City/state/zip

4. Date of each lot of store ground product produced, where a lot is defined as all identically labeled product produced from full equipment clean-up to clean-up

5. Exact name/type of store ground product

6. Amount of each lot of store ground product

7. Sell by/use by date and/or production code of each lot of store ground product

8. Other information used to identify store ground product

9. Full name(s) and product code(s) of all source products used to formulate each lot of store ground product

10. All Federal or State Establishment numbers of each source product contained in each lot of store ground product

11. Each source product sell by, use by, or production date/code

12. The source firm name, establishment number and use by/sell by/production date/code for all Shop trim/rework used in each lot of store ground product

13. Date and Time the grinder was sanitized between source materials

14. Bills of Sale (e.g. sales receipts) reflecting Item numbers for each ground beef product sold to consumers

15. Invoice(s) and Bill(s) of lading for source product(s)


Grinding Record

Time of grind

Lot/Batch Number (lot=same source material)

Exact Name/Type of Product Produced

Package Size of Product Produced

Amount (in pounds) produced

Production Code of Product of Product Produced

Manufacturer, Name of Source Material Used

Supplier, Product Code and/or Pack Date of Source Material Used

Establishment Information from label of Source Product Used (Est. #, ph #, contact info)

Grinder Cleaned and Sanitized Between Source Materials?

If Y, Date and Comments



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