FSIS Announces Revised Guidelines for Minimizing the Risk of Shiga Toxin-Producing Escherichia coli (STEC) in Beef Slaughter and Processing Operations

  • On July 19, 2021, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) published notice that it has updated two of its guidelines for minimizing the risk of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) in beef slaughter (including veal) and processing operations.  The beef slaughter and beef processing guidelines, which were initially published for comment on March 3, 2017 as “compliance” guidelines, provide advice on the best practices to prevent, eliminate, or reduce levels of fecal and associated microbiological contamination and address contamination with STEC in raw non-intact beef products and beef products intended for non-intact use.  Although these guidelines were developed to help small and very small establishments meet best practice recommendations, all FSIS regulated beef slaughter and processing establishments may be able to apply the recommendations in the guidelines.
  • Updates to the guidelines for minimizing the risk of STEC in beef slaughter and processing operations include:
    • Removal of the word “compliance” from the titles of both documents and other changes to clarify that the guidelines are recommendations and do not create any new regulatory requirements, a change that was made in response to concerns from industry groups that FSIS inspectors could incorrectly interpret the beef slaughter and beef processing guidelines as regulatory requirements;
    • Removal of information regarding Salmonella from both documents, as a result of FSIS choosing to address that foodborne hazard in other documents;
    • Additional information on technical procedures (e.g., cattle washing and pre-harvest interventions in beef slaughter and a brief question and answer section on antimicrobial interventions and retained water in beef processing);
    • Removal of best practices recommendations that would not be practical (e.g., the use of chlorophyll to detect contamination on carcasses); and
    • Additional information in relation to product recalls to clarify FSIS policy regarding adulterant STEC strains, which include E. coli O157:H7 as well as strains that have certain O groups (O26, O45, O103, O111, O121, and O145) and contain two specific virulence genes (stx and eae).
  • The revised beef slaughter and beef processing guidelines are expected to be posted today on the FSIS guidance web page at: https://www.fsis.usda.gov/policy/fsis-guidelines.  Although comments on these guidelines will no longer be accepted through www.regulations.gov, FSIS will continue to update these documents, as necessary.