The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) announced recently that beginning November 1, 2019, AMS will evaluate requests from AMS-designated laboratories to use methods different from those specified in the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) Microbiology Laboratory Guidebook (MLG) to test beef that AMS intends to purchase. AMS procures boneless and ground beef for the National School Lunch Program and other Federal food and nutrition assistance programs. Boneless and ground beef procured by AMS for these programs must meet specific microbiological requirements in the purchase specifications. Timely and accurate sample processing, analysis and reporting of results are essential.
AMS contracts with commercial laboratories to conduct the microbiological testing of beef it intends to purchase. These AMS-designated laboratories, or ADLs, are required to follow methods of analysis as outlined in the FSIS MLG. Based on recommendations from the National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods, AMS, in consultation with FSIS, developed the Alternative Method Program to evaluate requests from ADLs to use methods different from those in the MLG. To be approved, the method under consideration must be found at least as sensitive, specific and consistent as that provided in the MLG.