It has been since October 2009 that we filed the Petition for an Interpretive Rule Declaring enterohemorrhagic Shiga Toxin-producing Serotypes of Escherichia coli, Including Non-O157 Serotypes, to be Adulterants Within the Meaning of 21 U.S.C. § 601(m)(1) with the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS). Since I filed the Petition, I have also filed two supplements (See, First and Second) and provided the FSIS with my private test results.
When I filed the Petition, Mead, et. al., estimated that non-O157 STECs (like O26, O45, 0103, O111, O121, and O145) caused 36,000 illnesses, 1,000 hospitalizations and 30 deaths in America each year. Now, admittedly, not all, or most of these illnesses and deaths were caused by vectors overseen by FSIS, but clearly some have. However, the CDC new estimates of illnesses caused by non-O157 STECs have risen to over 160,000 ill yearly. Hospitalizations and deaths are lower because many non-O157 STECs do not cause severe illness, but O26, O45, 0103, O111, O121, and O145 certainly do.
Now according to Food Safety News, in the USDA’s budget request summary the department says funding will be directed towards addressing emerging foodborne pathogens, including non-O157 E. coli.
The plan calls for a $5.5 million increase to “expand regulatory sampling for key pathogens” and allow the agency to conduct an additional baseline study so that resources can be better focused.
“Motivated by increasing awareness that strains of non-O157:H7 shiga-toxin producing E. coli (non-O157 STECs) are causing human illnesses, the budget includes an increase of $0.7 million to support testing for non-O157 STECs,” the summary reads. “These pathogens cause more than three-quarters of the illnesses associated with the non-O157 STEC group.”
A past look at Obama’s FY 2010 and FY 2011 budget requests indicates that the FY 2012 request is the first time USDA’s request specifically stipulates funding for non-O157 STECs testing.
It is great that they are budgeting for testing, but why not just use the $500,000 worth of test results I provided to the FSIS since 2008?