In another step towards maintaining transparency and ensuring traceability in the food industry, the USDA’s ground meat recordkeeping rule will now require that retail establishments which grind raw beef products must adhere to a set of strict recordkeeping standards. The rule originally went into effect on June 20, 2016, with an enforcement date of October 1. Although this enforcement date saw the commencement of USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) investigators reviewing grinding logs at retail stores, the following six months were somewhat of a grace period, with investigators providing education and assistance to retailers needing to achieve compliance. As of April 1, this period of grace and education is over; retailers are now fully expected to maintain compliance with the recordkeeping rule.

Applying to any retailer that grinds raw beef for sale in commerce, the rule requires extensive recordkeeping, including:

  • The establishment number of beef vendors and suppliers;
  • Supplier lot numbers and production dates;
  • The names of all materials, including those carried over from a previous production lot;
  • The production date and time of produced lots;
  • Cleaning and sanitation dates and times for equipment and food-contact services.

Failure to achieve compliance with the recordkeeping rule can result in the establishment being issued a Notice of Warning, while multiple violations could launch a civil proceeding from the Department of Justice. A failure to achieve compliance will not automatically result in a recall, unless the investigator determines that the retailer has introduced adulterated or misbranded product into commerce.

Traceability throughout all areas of the supply chain continues to be of critical importance to food companies, and solid recordkeeping policies are a primary tool in achieving total traceability. When contaminated or unsafe product does make it to market, being able to quickly and accurately identify the source of a particular product can drastically reduce the number of individuals that are affected, as well as the quantity of recalled product.

For additional resources on the ground beef recordkeeping rule:

  • For the official copy of the final rule, click here.
  • The USDA has added a question and answer page regarding the ground beef recordkeeping rule to their website. To view it, click here.
  • To download the FSIS compliance guide on the recordkeeping rule, click here.
  • As part of its outreach efforts, the FSIS held a webinar to educate retailers, consumers, and food industry organizations on the recordkeeping rule. To download a copy of the slide deck used in that webinar, click here.