An increase in the number of recalls of meat and poultry products possibility containing metal and other foreign matter is prompting changes in the regulatory protocol, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) who oversees food recalls of meat.
This week the USDA said it will advise food companies to initiate internal investigations when they receive customer complaints and then they are to notify the government within 24 hours in contaminated products are confirmed in the marketplace.
These are voluntary guidelines designed to ensure companies like Tyson Foods meet pre-existing regulatory requirements. USDA said in the past year major food companies such as Tyson Foods, OK Foods, Smithfield and Pilgrim’s Pride have had more than 25 recalls involving millions of pounds of chicken nuggets, sausages and other foods that potentially contained foreign matter.
The new guidelines will advise food companies on how to investigate and process complaints and then apply information from that data to subsequent reports of contaminated products.
Trade groups like the North American Meat Institute (NAMI) said it has already published a best practices handbook for handling customer complaints about foreign matter in meat products and USDA has reviewed those guidelines.
NAMI has said there is a fair amount of bogus complaints from consumers and meat companies often need time to analyze the veracity of the complaints before taking action.
While consumer advocates blame more plant automation on the rise in these recalls, NAMI said technology can also help meat companies detect foreign materials in food before it is shipped to customers at retail.