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Government targets six E. coli in beef
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service has begun instituting a zero-tolerance policy for six additional strains of E. coli that are responsible for human illness. According to a May 31 USDA press release, the Food Safety and Inspection Service will routinely test raw beef manufacturing trim, which is a major component of ground beef, for the six additional strains of E. coli. Trim found to be contaminated with these pathogens will not be allowed into commerce and will be subject to recall.
Illnesses due to E. coli serogroups other than O157:H7, which caused a high-profile illness outbreak in 1993, outnumber those attributed to O157:H7. The Food Safety and Inspection Service declared O157:H7 an adulterant in 1994.
The additional strains can cause severe illness and even death, and young children and the elderly are at highest risk.
These initiatives support the three core principles developed by the President’s Food Safety Working Group: prioritizing prevention; strengthening surveillance and enforcement; and improving response and recovery. Some of these actions include:
•Test-and-hold policy that will significantly reduce consumer exposure to unsafe meat products, should the policy become final, because products cannot be released into commerce until Agency test results for dangerous contaminants are known.
•Labeling requirements that provide better information to consumers about their food by requiring nutrition information for single-ingredient raw meat and poultry products and ground or chopped products.
•Public Health Information System, a modernized, comprehensive database with information on public health trends and food safety violations at the nearly 6,100 plants Food Safety and Inspection Service regulates.
•Performance standards for poultry establishments for continued reductions in the occurrence of pathogens. After two years of enforcing the new standards, Food Safety and Inspection Services estimates that approximately 5,000 illnesses will be prevented each year under the new Campylobacter standards, and approximately 20,000 illnesses will be prevented under the revised Salmonella standards each year.
For more information, visit www.fsis.usda.gov.
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