Beginning 60 days from now, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) will require producers and importers of raw beef – and of all ready-to-eat products containing meat or poultry – to hold these products until they pass FSIS tests for adulterants.

Products affected by this new policy will not be permitted to enter commerce until negative test results are received. FSIS estimates that, had this policy been in place between 2007 and 2010, 49 out of 251 recalls of meat, poultry and processed egg products could have been avoided. Based on the information contained in the FSIS Recall Archive and list of Current Recalls, the new ‘hold and test’ policy could have prevented the recall of more than 200 tons of meat, poultry and processed egg products in 2011, and more than 175 tons in 2012.

Although finished product testing is not, of itself, a guarantee of food safety, any reduction in the quantity of pathogen-contaminated or adulterated food in the marketplace also reduces the risk of food-borne illnesses. There are, in addition, economic benefits to a ‘hold and test’ policy, including a reduction in the expenses associated with recalls. Not the least of these expenses is the effect of a major recall on the image of the recalling company.

‘Hold and test’ is a sensible policy that should be part of every company’s food safety program. Are you listening, Unilever? Are you listening, Spence & Co.? Are you listening, Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheese? Are you listening, J.M. Smucker?

Are YOU listening, FDA?