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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

FSIS to spend $700,000 on non-O157:H7 shiga-toxin producing E. coli testing

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.

make-money-games.jpgNow 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?

  • Gabrielle Meunier

    I think calls and e-mails to Kathleen Sebelius’s office would be appropriate. This is a typical example of government waste. I’m sure your data is as valid as any data that they could pay to produce? I’m sure FSIS/ or HHS would not want the new Congress to use this as an example of waste. Let us know if you have any success in reaching their offices!

  • Dear BILL MARLER.
    During 2010, I have begun to read articles on the web about the food safety and quality. I’m bit surprised to discover that the US faced dozen of thousands people harmed and 30 dead.
    FSIS spent $700,000 just for testing E. coli and I think it is a lot of money. Going back to 2009, around August, I have closely started to follow one small company which is developed revolutionary device MIT-1000 and believe it can bring effective solution to saving budget and deliver prompt results.
    My question: Does it possible to say , how many tests were covered by $700,000?
    Your sincerely,
    Mr. Graiver

  • Best guess is about 7,000 tests – plus or minus a bit.

  • Bill Anderson

    Rather than spend all this money to develop a band-aid solution, why not get the root of the problem and try to find out what causes these super-bugs to evolve to begin with?
    Oh right… because they are afraid of what they’ll find out — FOOD INC. chemical intensive GMO agriculture, filthy CAFOs & grain-heavy diets for animals, etc…
    Your tax dollars at work playing cover for BIG AG!

  • Actually, I am working on a paper focused on the evolution of E. coli O157:H7 to go along with some of the work I have done on grass vs grain fed beef and the impact on E. coli O157:H7. Stay tuned.

  • Minkpuppy

    Bill M.,
    Have you come across anything in your research about O157 possibly mutating from a human e. coli bug? I saw someone post something about it on twitter the other day and like a dingbat I didn’t favorite the tweet so I could go back and read the article. Wouldn’t that just blow the lid off the whole Big AG theory?

  • Bill Anderson

    Good to hear Bill.
    I am curious to see how more than just grass vs. grain effect the types of E. Coli in cattle manure.
    We also have to consider the types of grass and/or grain, the type of soil and eco-system they are grown in and the nutritional content of the grass/grain (minerals, fatty acids, vitamins, etc…, as well as genetics/breeding of the plants and chemical residues) It is a very complex system, no doubt.

  • Dear Bill Marler.
    I’m really, really surprised to discover that FSIS spent such high amount of money for 7000 +/- tests. Nowadays, when we have been trying to be productive, we shouldn’t forget that there are many ways and available alternatives to improve our system. I want to take you back to my previous post where I asked question about: How many tests were covered by $700,000US ? It wasn’t just simple question. Doing simple math we can clearly get average price for one test, approximately $100US. We definitely shouldn’t spend so much money and I’ m very proud that a new technology like MIT-1000, can offer much effective and less expensive way to deal with pathogens that constantly harm people.
    In additional, if we want to reduce the number of harmed people, the food safety has to be ranked as the highest priorities in the US.
    It would be interesting to know your opinion about the nearest future of world wide trade between USA and China and role of FDA in such important topic – The Food Safety and Quality.
    Thank you.