USDA Beefs Up E. coli Controls

| 10/26/2007 12:00:00 AM

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Consumer pressure to prevent E. coli 0157:H7 outbreaks has prompted the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to implement new testing and recall practices in the beef industry.

While Undersecretary of Food Safety Richard Raymond maintains that our food supply is safer than it has ever been, he acknowledged that something needs to be done concerning the dangers of E. coli in our meat.

'Since January there have been 15 recalls related to E. coli in beef this year, eight of those have been associated with human illnesses. In comparison, in 2006 there were only eight related recalls and none of those were related to human illnesses and in 2005 there were only five E. coli related recalls. So obviously something has changed,' he said.

The new procedures will focus on methods to keep tainted beef out of the marketplace. Starting in November, all beef processing plants must verify that they are effectively controlling contamination. In addition, the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service will routinely sample for E. coli O157:H7 at all processing facilities.

It makes me feel a little better to know that someone is taking steps to prevent illness outbreaks, but it occurred to me that perhaps there are more factors to consider. Shouldn't we also be making an effort to determine how this deadly strain became a problem in the first place? Tell me what you think: Are E. coli 0157:H7 contaminations simply a product of the meat-packing process, or do farming practices play a role in this?

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