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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Meatingplace – FSIS suspends E. coli testing

I always start my morning on Meatingplace, in part to see what nasty thing the tools of the meat industry have to say about me, but also for breaking news they get with their close relationship to FSIS.  I was drawn to the story this morning by Michael Fielding:

Citing a complete lack of positive results after nine years of testing, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Services (FSIS) is suspending analyses of dry and semi-dry fermented sausages and fully cooked meat patties for E. coli O157:H7.

Despite testing more than 10,000 samples of the products, the agency has found no regulatory positive results and is reassessing its testing program for E. coli O157:H7 in dry and semi-dry fermented sausage products for verifying process controls.

Meanwhile, the agency plans to increase testing for the pathogen in raw products that pose a more immediate public health impact.

seltzers1-ftured.jpgI hope this is progress, although I am perplexed how stopping testing would help prevent the E. coli O157:H7 outbreak that the CDC and FSIS reported a few months ago:

at least 14 persons are infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli serotype O157:H7 have been reported from Maryland (3 cases), New Jersey (2 cases), North Carolina (1 case), Ohio (2 cases) and Pennsylvania (6 cases). Palmyra Bologna Company, of Palmyra, PA, is recalling approximately23,000 pounds of Seltzer Brand Lebanon bologna products that may be contaminated with E. coli 0157:H7.  Here is the retail distribution list.

Lebanon bologna is a type of cured, smoked, fermented, semi-dry sausage. The thermal processing of Lebanon bologna typically does not exceed 120 °F (49 °C) due to undesirable quality effects high heat has on the final product. Because it is not cooked to a higher temperature, other ingredients and processes are used to control microbial growth. This time the process clearly failed.

A quick search at www.outbreakdatabase.com reveals outbreaks and recalls in bologna, sausage and salami products.

  • Minkpuppy

    This makes absolutely no sense when there’s an ongoing outbreak associated with these products. I thought the testing of dry/fermented products was due to past outbreaks anyway.
    The logic escapes me- “Well, we haven’t found anything so it must not be there!”
    At least do some spot checks to keep folks honest.

  • Gabrielle Meunier

    Good point. Perhaps there is something wrong with their testing procedures? Anyway, thanks for keeping your eye on the ball, Bill.

  • Carl Custer

    Yeah, dunno what they’re thinking.
    FSIS just increased their O157 sampling capacity by 5 X by (finally) verifying that the current analytical method is fine for the 325 gram sample instead of the previous 5 x 65 gram samples (based on a 1997 Cattlemen’s petition with another method).
    Regulatory verification sampling helps maintain a level playing field for the conscientious processors against those who may slip.
    Time for FSIS to re read 12 U.S.C, 602?

  • Walt Hill

    All negative, eh. Maybe FSIS is picking the wrong samples to test? And this result is just another example of how random testing for very low frequency pathogens cannot be used for ordinary food safety purposes but only as a check to see if something has gone radically wrong, and even then getting a positive is hit or miss.