US to test beef for six kinds of E.coli bacteria

The US government said Tuesday it will begin testing next year for six more kinds of E.coli bacteria in raw ground beef and tenderized steaks in order to boost protection of US consumers.

The US currently tests for one strain of E.coli O157:H7 in , but beginning in March 2012, if raw beef tests positive for E.coli serogroups O26, O103, O45, O111, O121 and O145, it will be banned from the market.

The six additional types of E.coli can survive in that is cooked to a pink center, and even very low doses can cause potentially fatal illnesses particularly in children and the elderly, the Department of Agriculture said.

"These organisms could survive in a hamburger that is not properly cooked," said USDA Undersecretary for Elisabeth Hagen, noting that many Americans like to eat meat that is prepared medium rare.

About one in six Americans becomes sick from a food borne illnesses each year, an epidemic that kills about 3,000 annually and hospitalizes 128,000, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Too often, we are caught reacting to a problem instead of preventing it. This new policy will help stop problems before they start," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Asked by a reporter if the testing would apply to imported meat, Vilsack replied: "We will certainly work with our import partners to make sure they understand the importance of this."

The six strains are known as non-O157:H7 Shiga-toxin producing E.coli, and can cause a range of symptoms, from diarrhea to .

The Center for Science in the Public Interest said the new steps "will help prevent future outbreaks," at "reasonable" costs of "half a million dollars for the USDA and under five million for the entire $155-billion US meat industry."

The also noted that the six new strains "have been linked to at least 10 outbreaks and nearly 700 illnesses since 1998."

However, the American Meat Institute, the largest US meat and poultry trade group, said there was no scientific basis for the change.

"USDA's declaration of six nSTEC (non-O157 Shiga toxin-producing E.coli) as adulterants in beef is neither warranted nor justified by the science," said a statement by AMI executive vice president James Hodges.

"USDA has drafted a paper detailing its reasoning because the agency admits it does not have the data needed to do a proper public health risk assessment," he said.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Government to expand E. coli tests in meat

Sep 12, 2011

(AP) -- For years government officials have tested meat for only one strain of E. coli. Now they will test for seven, a move that will hasten recalls of infected meat.

Does grilling kill E. coli O157:H7?

Jun 28, 2011

Top sirloin steaks have been getting a grilling in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) food safety studies. USDA microbiologist John B. Luchansky and his colleagues are conducting experiments to help make sure that neither ...

Recommended for you

The hunt for botanicals

Dec 19, 2014

Herbal medicine can be a double-edged sword and should be more rigorously investigated for both its beneficial and harmful effects, say researchers writing in a special supplement of Science.

Mozambique decriminalises abortion to stem maternal deaths

Dec 19, 2014

Mozambique has passed a law permitting women to terminate unwanted pregnancies under specified conditions, a move hailed by activists in a country where clandestine abortions account for a large number of maternal deaths.

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.