FOOD SAFETY RINSE PART OF USDA PROPOSAL

CRANBURY, N.J. -- Prompted by deadly outbreaks of food poisoning, the United State Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service recently published a proposed rule intended to reduce the occurrence and numbers of the microorganisms responsible for food-borne illness in meat products.Among the proposed requirements is one that mandates the use of at least one antimicrobial treatment

CRANBURY, N.J. -- Prompted by deadly outbreaks of food poisoning, the United State Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service recently published a proposed rule intended to reduce the occurrence and numbers of the microorganisms responsible for food-borne illness in meat products.

Among the proposed requirements is one that mandates the use of at least one antimicrobial treatment to reduce the hazard posed by these pathogenic organisms. The list of approved treatments includes trisodium phosphate, the sanitizer used in Rhone-Poulenc's Assur-Rinse antimicrobial wash.

"We're coming along at the right moment -- it certainly wasn't preplanned," said Bill Batjer, AvGard project director at Rhone-Poulenc here. "However, we don't feel we have to rely on the USDA proposal to be successful. We have prominently positioned it with a logo on those products we treat, although its use is not mandatory. We prefer to use the name Assur-Rinse rather than refer to the compound because it describes more accurately what this does."

The Assur-Rinse system is a comprehensive package. It includes not only the TSP product called AvGard, but a number of related services. Rhone-Poulenc continues to test and certify the efficacy of the process.

"We don't just sell the compound and walk away from it," said Batjer. "Being in the business for three years with this taught us that if we did [walk away] it probably wouldn't succeed because there are so many variables. We are talking about microbiology here. It's a very detail-intensive process."

The patent for the use of this sanitizer as an antimicrobial treatment was issued to Rhone-Poulenc. Therefore, any antimicrobial use of TSP outside of the company's system would require a royalty.

According to an explanation of the rulemaking in the Federal Register, written comments regarding the proposed rule will be accepted at the USDA through June 5.

Assur-Rinse already is being used commercially by one large turkey producer, Rocco Turkey, located in Dayton, Va., which markets products under the Shady Brook Farms brand. Because of favorable reaction, Rocco promotes the use of Assur-Rinse via ads and in-store leaflets. The package also displays the Assur-Rinse logo. Tests show that the use of TSP in poultry reduced the prevalence of Salmonella down from 23% to approximately 1%. It produced similar reductions in levels of E. coli and other pathogens. It also reduces the level of many spoilage organisms, increasing the shelf life of meat. Similar tests are being conducted on pork and have just been approved for beef. Rhone-Poulenc submitted for a provisional use approval for beef this month (March) and is confident that the approval will be granted sometime before the end of the summer.

"We feel this gives companies with a premium brand, like Rocco's Shady Brook Farms, another step up in quality," said Batjer.

"We saw Assur-Rinse as one more important element in our total quality program," said Rick Chenoweth, Rocco's director of marketing.