The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) purchases beef for the National School Lunch Program and other federal nutrition assistance programs. For beef that will be delivered to food service facilities raw, each ca. 900-kg lot of boneless beef raw material and each ca. 4,500-kg sublot of resultant ground beef is tested for standard plate count (SPC) organisms, coliforms, Escherichia coli, Salmonella, and E. coli O157:H7. In addition, 1 of every 10 lots of boneless beef, randomly selected, is tested for E. coli O26, O45, O103, O111, O121, and O145. For beef that will be cooked using a validated lethality step at a federally inspected establishment before delivery, each lot of boneless beef and each sublot of ground beef is tested for SPC organisms, coliforms, and E. coli only. Any lot or sublot exceeding predefined critical limits (CLs) of 100,000 CFU g−1 for SPC organisms, 1,000 CFU g−1 for coliforms, or 500 CFU g−1 for E. coli or for beef containing Salmonella or any of previously mentioned E. coli serotypes is rejected for purchase. For school years 2015 through 2018 (July 2014 through June 2018), 220,497,254 kg of boneless beef and 189,347,318 kg of ground beef were produced for AMS. For boneless beef, 133 (0.06%), 164 (0.07%), and 106 (0.04%) of 240,488 lots exceeded CLs for SPC organisms, coliforms, and E. coli, respectively; 2,038 (1.30%) and 116 (0.07%) of 156,671 lots were positive for Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7, respectively; and 59 (0.36%) of 16,515 lots were positive for non-O157 Shiga toxin–producing E. coli. For ground beef, 46 (0.10%), 27 (0.06%), and 19 (0.04%) of 45,769 sublots exceeded CLs for SPC organisms, coliforms, and E. coli, respectively; and 329 (1.40%) and 18 (0.08%) of 23,475 sublots were positive for Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7, respectively. All lots and sublots found to exceed indicator organism CLs or to contain pathogens were identified, rejected for purchase, and diverted from federal nutrition assistance programs.
AMS purchases beef for the National School Lunch Program.
Less than 0.10% of beef samples exceeded indicator organism critical limits.
Salmonella was found in 1.4% and E. coli O157:H7 was found in 0.08% of samples.
Indicator critical limit exceedance was weakly associated with pathogen presence.
Beef with excessive indicator organisms or containing pathogens was rejected for purchase.