It is good for AMI members too.

FSIS-ground-beef.jpgBeginning March 5, 2012, after years of discussion, Food Safety Inspection Services (FSIS) finally intends to do sampling and testing of manufacturing trim and other raw ground beef products, to ensure control of both E. coli O157:H7 and six other serotypess of STEC E. coli (O26, O45, O103, O111, O121, and O145) – a.k.a. “The Big Six.”

FSIS has determined after years of research, that along with E. coli O157:H7, these six serotypes are adulterants in non-intact raw beef products and trim within the meaning of the Federal Meat Inspection Act. The import of a finding that these serotypes of STEC’s are adulterants is, if FSIS or a manufacturer finds any of those serogroups in these types of products, it will prohibit the product from entering commerce – consumers will not eat it.

FSIS further found that like E. coli O157:H7, these serotypes cause severe illness and even death, and that young children and the elderly are at highest risk. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also identified these serotypes as responsible for the greatest numbers of non-O157 STEC illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths in the United States.

According to FSIS, manufacturers can rely upon the FSIS laboratory methodology released in October and updated on November 4, 2011, which has been demonstrated to reliably identify these pathogens, or they can use an equivalent methodology of their choice.

The AMI has called on FSIS to delay the implementation of testing “The Big Six,” and to not even deem these serotypes adulterants. AMI claims the costs of implementation is too high, that the testing is not yet accurate enough to prevent false positives, and, that not enough people seem to be getting sick – yet. AMI made these same arguments, and others, in 1994 when it unsuccessfully sued FSIS to stop the listing of E. coli O157:H7 as an adulterant. AMI was wrong then and it is wrong now.

AMI has never embraced that fact that getting all pathogenic E. coli out of our meat supply is good for consumers and good for AMI members. Fact – from 1993-2002 100’s of the millions were paid by meat companies to E. coli O157:H7 victims, mainly children. It took a decade for the entire industry to step up, but E. coli O157:H7 cases linked to hamburger are a small part of what we do because the industry met my challenge to “put me out of business.” Banning “The Big Six” will benefit consumers and AMI members.

AMI, just because you can argue about something does not mean you should. It is time to put the safety of consumers, and the good of your members, ahead of the arguing about anything that in your mind justifies your existence.