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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Testing for non-O157 E. coli – “American consumers deserve no less”

ecoli-agar-plate-featured.jpgIn response to Obama Administration inaction, Congresswoman Rosa L. DeLauro issued a statement today following the announcement by Beef Products, Inc. (BPI) that it will begin testing for an additional six strains of E. coli currently not required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

… We know that these types of non-O157 shiga toxin-producing E. coli are dangerous, causing over 100,000 illnesses every year in the United States. I commend Beef Products, Inc. for working to protect their consumers by testing for the presence of six of these dangerous pathogens. I urge the Administration to take immediate action, and implement a strong food safety rule that would do the same. American consumers deserve no less.

Here is part o the BPI press release:

BPI … announced today that the company is expanding its … food safety program by testing for an additional six pathogenic forms of E. coli.

This first-of-a-kind action is part of the company’s “hold and test” quality assurance program through which BPI samples its lean beef prior to sale, holds the lean beef, and tests for the presence of pathogens. Only after determining the test results are negative will beef be sold or used for raw ground beef.

… While most E. coli are not pathogenic, these Shiga-toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) pathogens, collectively referred to as non-O157 STECs, are forms of E. coli that are capable of producing negative health effects similar to those caused by E. coli O157:H7, which is the most widely known strain to raise serious health concerns in the United States.

… The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), through its Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) declared E. coli O157:H7 an adulterant in ground beef in 1994. Any raw ground beef sampled and tested that contains this pathogen cannot be sold for human consumption in that raw form. USDA and beef industry initiatives since that time have been effective in reducing the prevalence of this pathogen from the beef supply. Still, recent global health concerns caused by E. coli pathogens other than O157:H7 and in foods other than beef, highlight the value of BPI’s decision to expand its testing to include these six additional pathogens, which have been recognized as the “big six” pathogens by the USDA. Protocols have been developed to test for these six strains and a sufficient supply of test kits are now available to sustain BPI’s testing program.

The Obama Administration, USDA, FSIS and OMB have run out of excuses for not moving on declaring pathogenic non-O157 E. coli adulterants. It is good to see that someone (BPI and others) in the meat industry have risen to the challenge.

  • Doc Mudd

    Good on BPI.
    They will demonstrate on behalf of the industry, once again, how technologic advancement and improved quality assurance translates into positive marketing impact and enhanced public health. Other serious players will get with the program.
    These progressive measures leave foot-dragging regressive neo-luddite operaters so far back in the dust it’s pathetic. Literally. Hopefully the whining of the back-to-the-fiefdom cult will soon fade completely out of earshot.

  • doc raymond

    It is my impression that USDA and FSIS tried to move on declaring these six to be adulterants when they notified OMB of their intent to start rule making. One can maybe criticize them for not just doing it like Taylor did in 1994, but I will not. That would be political suicide. They tried to use the open and transparent process of rule making, but asked for permission first. Since there have only been three illnesses linked to beef in the US so far, I find that reasonable and prudent. NO, don’t finger USDA and FSIS on this, this is all about the Administration and OMB at this point in time.

  • Minkpuppy

    Kudos to BPI for recognizing the threat of these bugs.
    Voluntary industry testing for non-O157 E. coli is preferable to mandating it by regulation any day, especially if they willingly share the results with FSIS inspectors and take meaningful action when positive results come back.

  • Walt

    If industry always voluntarily did the right thing, we wouldn’t need all those regulations. They don’t and we do.