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Imported Beef from the US

US meat being imported into Australia is starting to raise its head again.

Food standards Australia and New Zealand have just come out with BSE food safety assessment report.

FSANZ is the regulatory body responsible for conducting BSE assessments on countries that seek to export beef or beef products to Australia. FSANZ analyse the information provided by applicant countries and assigns them BSE risk status.

World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) upgraded the US to negligible risk status in May 2013.

FSANZ has conducted an assessment of legislation measures in the US concerning control and prevention of BSE.  This was followed by an in country assessment of the application and enforcement of these legislation measures.

Some of the findings of the legislation in the US concerning control and prevention of BSE are listed below. Five main control areas were examined.

  1. Import controls to prevent release in the country of BSE agent through import of animals or animal derived products.
  2. Feed ban control to prevent entry of and recycling in the animal feed supply by BSE agent.
  3. Food safety controls prevent contamination of human food supply with BSE agent.
  4. Traceability and animal identification systems to ensure animals and animal derived products can be effectively identified and recalled is required.
  5. Surveillance programs to ensure the BSE infected animals are identified and removed from feed and food production systems.

In the event of a BSE case traceability systems should demonstrate that they can achieve timely and effective identification by tracing a recall of beef products from all BSE affected animals. The system should be able to identify and trace beef and beef products from the point of retail sale back to the point of manufacture and point to slaughter. The system should integrate with cattle identification and traceability measures such as the origin of contaminated beef and beef products can be traced back to any animal of interest if required.

Recall systems meat and meat processing establishments are required to have effective recall programs under directives that are integrated into HACCP and quality assurance systems and prove effectiveness of recall systems through regular orders and mock recalls.

This means that person and establishment are essentially required to have records that facilitate the tracing of animals and product one step forward and one step back along the supply chain. These records are to be the subject of regular audits.

NLIS is Australia system for identifying and tracking or cattle through their life. This is a permanent whole of life identification system which aims to ensure that individual animals can be tracked from property of birth to slaughter for bio security, food safety and product integrity and market access purposes.

This comes at great cost to the Australian producers. This is in direct contrast to the processors, wholesalers and retailers who are under no such obligation, or costs, to maintain records of all transactions of any cattle or related products.

In the US any persons, firms or corporations that engaged in the business of buying or selling meat are required to have records that facilitate the tracing of animals and/or products right along the supply chain and these records are subject to regular audits.

It seems to me that in Australia we should be seriously looking at doing an audit to try and trace back meat on the supermarket shelves, food service sector and other retailers. Could we do it? To my way of thinking if we tried it would show how inadequate our system really is.

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