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Agricultural News

Consumer Groups Like Cautious Approach USDA Taking on Additional E-Coli Strains- Meat Industry Asks- Where's the Science?

Wed, 14 Sep 2011 05:45:11 CDT

Consumer Groups Like Cautious Approach USDA Taking on Additional E-Coli Strains- Meat Industry Asks- Where's the Science? Mixed reaction is coming out as a result of the USDA announcement to be more strict on e-coli pathogens that can be found in ground beef. Consumer groups are applauding the abundance of caution approach of USDA- while the meat industry is concerned policy is ahead of what sound science tells us about these pathogens.

Carol Tucker-Foreman of the Consumer Federation of America calls the Obama Administration's announcement that ground beef contaminated with any of six additional disease-causing strains of E. coli bacteria is adulterated and must be removed from the market - may be the biggest change in meat and poultry safety in the last fifteen years. She believes - the program details are reasonable enough to overcome fierce industry and trading partner opposition.

Craig Wilson, Vice President, Quality Assurance and Food Safety, for Costco Wholesale says his company "fully supports" the FSIS announcement. Costco started full time testing at its plant for STEC about 3 months ago. He called this announcement - the next evolution in finish product testing.

Nancy Donley, President, STOP Foodborne Illness, says her organization is - pleased to see USDA act proactively rather than in reaction to another major foodborne illness outbreak such as the case in declaring E. coli O157:H7 an adulterant in 1994.

Jean Halloran, Director of Food Policy Initiatives at Consumers Union, says - by classifying these dangerous pathogens as adulterants, the USDA is adopting a 'zero-tolerance' policy toward E. coli in meat that we have long fought for.

Craig Letch, Director of Quality Assurance, Beef Products, Inc., says - using these newly available tests for these additional STECs will help us further ensure the safety and quality of our lean beef and that consumers are better protected from potential exposure to these harmful pathogens.

And David Theno, Chairman of Gray Dog Partners, Inc., a food safety consulting firm, says - the agency should be commended for their proactive approach to responding to an emerging problem without it becoming a national crisis.

James Hodges, Executive Vice President of the American Meat Institute points out that - although the new policy is intended to benefit public health with limited costs, in the notice USDA acknowledged that "we do not know how many illnesses will actually be prevented. It is not clear whether or not there will be a reduction in the number of illnesses.

In its news release, USDA said that Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identifies these particular serogroups of nSTEC as responsible for the greatest numbers of nSTEC illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths in the United States. However, the notice itself says, "The illnesses associated with these strains have not primarily been due to contamination on beef." In fact, according to the CDC, only three nSTEC infections have been definitely linked to beef.

The AMI leader emphasizes, - USDA will spend millions of dollars testing for these strains instead of using those limited resources toward preventive strategies that are far more effective in ensuring food safety. Hodges says - imposing this new regulatory program on ground beef will cost tens of millions of federal and industry dollars costs that likely will be borne by taxpayers and consumers. Hodges questions its benefit and says - is it not good public policy.

We have comments with Hodges on the AMI concerns about sound science being left out of this move by USDA- click on the LISTEN BAR below to hear his comments.


Ron Hays offers an audio overview of the concerns raised by Jim Hodges of AMI on new E-Coli rules from USDA.
right-click to download mp3


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