US regulators to consult public over E. coli concerns

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: E. coli, Foodborne illness, Escherichia coli

The US department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food Safety and
Inspection Service (FSIS) will next month look into solutions to
significantly reduce the presence of E. coli O157:H7 in raw meat
stocks following recent scares.

In a public meeting which will take place on the 9 to 10 April, processors, regulators and other industry stakeholders will present their findings and debate potential overhauls of existing recall and safety practices regarding raw meat use. The timing of the talks comes just two months after the Minnesota-based Rochester Meat Co issues a major recall of 188,000 pounds of ground beef and other products because of E. coli bacteria concerns. The E. coli O157:H7 strain of bacteria has been found to cause serious harm, especially to children, senior citizens and those with weak immune systems. Dr. Richard Raymond, US under secretary for food safety, said that despite major advances in battling foodborne illnesses like E-coli in the country during the last decade, reduction levels have recently levelled out. "It is time for another series of bold, strong moves based on knowledge and science to produce further significant reductions in illnesses attributed to the products we regulate,"​ he stated. "We aim to prevent and not just respond to illnesses, and consumers, industry and our public health partners are critical partners in our long term strategy and we look forward to our continuing collaborative relationship to ensure food safety."Focus of the talks ​ According to the FSIS, one of the key issues at the talks will be a discussion on a survey taken last November of 2,400 ground beer suppliers and producers in order to allow a more efficient system for prioritizing food safety testing. Sampling programs, risk and food safety assessments, and import issues concerning beef trim testing will also be reviewed, the authority said. The FSIS will aim to use the talks to consult on evidence suggesting that raw beef products such as primal cuts or boxed beer contaminated with the O157:H7 E. coli strain should be recognised as 'adulterated' products. However, making this stance official would require significant stakeholder input, the FSIS said.

Related topics: Food safety and labeling

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