04/06/2011 11:42 am ET | Updated Jun 06, 2011

USDA Announces 'Test and Hold' Plan To Curb Meat Recalls

In an effort to reduce the amount of consumer illnesses and deaths due to contaminated meat, the USDA has announced a "test and hold" rule that will delay sending meat to grocery stores until it is tested for dangerous bacteria.

In a statement released April 5, the USDA believes that 44 of the most serious food recalls from 2007 to 2009 could have been avoided, had this new process been in place.

Obama Foodorama clarifies, "Under current procedures, producers are allowed to ship raw cuts of meat into the marketplace after testing but before results have been verified--and then recall these if test results reveal contamination."

The Wall Street Journal explains that these tests usually take 24-48 hours to conduct, which sometimes resulted in meat processors not wanting to wait.

The lack of pushback from the meat industry suggests that this is a necessary policy adjustment and in fact most of the meat sector supports it, but Food Safety News adds that most processing plants already have these procedures in place, and this new plan will mostly effect smaller plants.

Chuck Jolley, also of Food Safety News, explains how "test and hold" can be successful:

The bottom line: To make this proposal work in the real world, tests are needed that are quicker and more accurate. They're coming; the lab rats of the world are working feverishly on something that's as near immediate as possible. What we also need is a well-funded USDA that can put highly trained and skilled personnel on the floor to test and return the results at near the speed of commerce, regardless of the method of choice.