You might recall a blog post I did from January of 2008 where I discussed testing retail ground beef for Non-O157:H7 Pathogenic Shiga Toxin Producing E. coli (STEC). We have completed a portion of the first year’s tests and are in the process of compiling the data. We hope to publish the results in the next month. (See Abstract)
Non-O157 STEC are capable of causing the same debilitating triad of diseases as E. coli O157:H7, including hemorrhagic colitis, hemolytic uremic syndrome, and thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura. Infection with the non-O157 STEC can result in death in children, the elderly and the immunocompromised. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of reported cases of illnesses caused by this group of pathogenic E. coli has been steadily increasing over the past several years. Despite this, Non-O157:H7 STEC is not considered an adulterant under current law in the U.S. That needs to change.
Non-O157:H7 STEC are also known to occur in imported beef from several trading partners, yet the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has not required that imported beef be free of these pathogens. The Agency has also failed to devise steps to measure and control the presence of these pathogens in domestic beef production and the ground beef supply, at the slaughterhouse or the grocery store.