FSIS revives proposal on trichinae in pork

By Stephen Davies

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, March 18, 2016 - USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service is asking for comments on a proposal to eliminate what it says are “redundant trichinae control requirements for pork and pork products.”

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Facilities “will still be required to control for the risk of trichinae and other parasites,” but can do so using FSIS's Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system.

HACCP regulations “require establishments to develop science-based controls for trichinae that are appropriate for the hazards identified for each specific establishment,” FSIS said in a release. “Compliance with FSIS's HACCP guidelines has proven effective at eliminating trichinae, and the risk for Trichinella infection associated with commercial pork has decreased substantially.”

Trichinellosis in humans is caused by the consumption of raw or undercooked meat products containing Trichinella larvae, FSIS said.

In draft guidance for pork producers, FSIS said that during the late 1940s, about 400 cases of trichinellosis were recorded in the U.S. each year. But by 2008-2012, “a median of 15 cases per year were reported” to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Today, “the risk of trichinellosis from commercially raised and properly prepared pork is very low,” the guidance said.

Most of the reduction is due to swine being raised in confinement, the draft guidance said. “However, in organic, pasture-raised swine that have access to rodents and wildlife infected with Trichinella, the risk of infection to Trichinella is increased,” it added.

“Raising swine outdoors poses a major risk for swine being infected with Trichinella because it increases exposure to potentially infected reservoir hosts,” the guidance said.

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FSIS is also asking for comments on the draft guidance, which said that if the new proposed rule is finalized, “all establishments producing pork products will need to assess whether their products are to be treated for elimination of Trichinella, whether special cooking instructions are necessary on the label of the products, or whether safe handling labels are sufficient to ensure that the products are cooked to temperatures necessary to eliminate any possible live Trichinella.”

The guidance lists four options to prevent and control Trichinella in pork:

  • Acquire pork products from carcasses or carcass parts found to be free of Trichinella by a validated testing method;
  • Obtain pork products from swine producers who participate in the Trichinae Certification Program or a negligible risk compartment for Trichinella;
  • Label Not Ready to Eat (NRTE) pork products, including all forms of fresh pork requiring additional treatment by the consumer and validated cooking instructions;
  • Treat NRTE pork products for the destruction of Trichinella that might be eaten rare or without thorough cooking because of the appearance of the finished product.

Also in the supplemental proposed rule, FSIS is asking for comment on a proposal to establish food safety performance standards for all ready-to-eat and all partially heat-treated meat and poultry products.

“These changes will streamline and clarify the regulations without any reduction in the existing public health protections,” FSIS said. “Among the proposed changes, FSIS is proposing to remove redundant equipment descriptions, update wording to reflect FSIS' current organizational structure, and clarify the regulatory requirements.”

The public comment period will begin when the proposal is published in the Federal Register, most likely sometime next week.

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