Ground beef has been implicated as a transmission vehicle in foodborne outbreaks of infection with pathogens such as Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Salmonella. During outbreak investigations, traceback of contaminated beef to the producing facility is often unsuccessful because of inadequate recordkeeping at retail establishments that grind beef products. We conducted a survey in three states participating in the Environmental Health Specialists Network to describe beef grinding and recordkeeping practices at retail establishments. In each establishment that maintained grinding logs, three randomly selected records were reviewed to determine whether important data elements for traceback investigations were recorded. One hundred twentyfive stores were surveyed, of which 60 (49%) kept grinding logs, including 54 (74%) of 73 chain stores and 6 (12%) of 51 independent stores. One hundred seventy-six grinding records from 61 stores were reviewed. Seventy-three percent of the records included the establishment code of the source beef, 72% included the grind date and time, and 59% included the lot number of the source beef. Seventy-five percent of records noted whether trimmings were included in grinds, and 57% documented cleanup activities. Only 39 (22%) records had all of these variables completed. Of stores that did not keep grinding logs, 40% were unaware of their purpose. To facilitate effective and efficient traceback investigations by regulatory agencies, retail establishments should maintain records more detailed and complete of all grinding activities.
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