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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Dr. Elisabeth Hagen, new FSIS Chief speaks on non-O157 E. coli

William Neuman of the New York Times got Dr. Hagen on record this week in his article, “Beef Recall Heats Up Fight to Tighten Rules:”

PH2010090304407.jpgDr. Hagen has yet to say publicly what she plans to do. But in a written statement provided to The New York Times, she said, “In order to best prevent illnesses and deaths from dangerous E. coli in beef, our policies need to evolve to address a broader range of these pathogens, beyond E. coli O157:H7.” She added, “Our approach should ensure that public health and food safety policy keeps pace with the demonstrated advances in science and data about food-borne illness to best protect consumers.”

The agency has said that it is reluctant to make additional forms of toxic E. coli illegal in ground beef until it has developed a rapid test that can detect those strains in packing plants. Such tests are not expected to be ready until at least late next year.

The AP, picked up the same story and quote from the TImes. 

I do not want to sound like a broken record, but we can not wait yet another year or years for more tests to develop that might be more convenient for FSIS and the beef industry. The time has come to do the logical thing (at a minimum).  If E. coli O157:H7 is an adulterant because it can kill your child, then other non-O157 STECs (like O26, O45, 0103, O111, O121, and O145) that cause 36,700 illnesses, 1,100 hospitalizations and 30 deaths in America each year, should be adulterants as well.

I think I pretty clearly set forth the rationale for FSIS action on these other six pathogens, “Non – E. coli O157:H7 EHEC (O26, O45, O111, O121, O145, and O103) should be “Adulterants”” and in the Pettion and Supplement 1 and Supplement 2, that we filed with the agency nearly one year ago.  As for testing – I have $500,000 reasons to say there are tests that already work.

Perhaps it is time for a Court to decide this?

  • I recently ran across a small company with a laser identification technology that boasts the ability to identify e-coli in minutes (and some 23 other food contaminants all at the same time). The name of the company is Micro Imaging Technology, and is said to be beginning the production of their machine called the MIT 1000. I don’t know a whole lot about this company, but I thought you might want to know that a company does exist and does have a product that meets the rapid test requirement stated in this article. Not only does machine do the tests fast, it does the tests for only about 10 cents and does not require a highly trained lab technician. The company’s website also says their equipment has been tested and certified to be more accurate then current testing in most labs. The following is their website: info@micro-identification.com

  • Walt Hill

    The presence of virulence genes such as the Shigatoxin encoding genes indicate that there has been a failure in maintaining process control to eliminate pathogens. Samples which are positive for these genes have a higher probability of harboring pathogens than ones that do not and are a good indicator of risk. Serotyping is a hold-over from 40-50 years ago when it was an important classification tool. Now, with genotyping and genome sequencing available, we have much more direct methods of assessing the pathogenic potential of foodborne bacteria. Let’s move food safety microbiology into the 21st century.

  • Amy