FSIS Search for Solutions to E.Coli in Beef

WASHINGTON, US - The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) today announced a public meeting to discuss challenges and proposed solutions in moving forward to address recalls and illnesses related to E. coli O157:H7.
calendar icon 1 April 2008
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"The last significant positive changes in the reduction of foodborne illness and positive product tests attributed to E. coli O157:H7 occurred early in this decade but we have since hit a plateau. 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," said Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Richard Raymond. "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."

The public meeting will be held on Wednesday, April 9, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Thursday, April 10, from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Georgetown, 2101 Wisconsin Ave., NW, Washington, DC. The meeting will feature various presentations and panel discussions by FSIS officials, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a senior foodborne illness litigation firm partner, representatives from industry and consumer groups, as well as a small plant owner and operator from South Carolina.

On April 9, participants will explore the broad perspectives on the challenges of addressing E. coli O157:H7, including illness and recall trends, and progress on non-O157:H7 Shiga Toxin-Producing E. coli (STEC) since the FSIS Oct. 2007 public meeting on the subject. Specifically, the Agency and participants will explore proposed next steps as a means to make progress in the challenge of addressing E. coli O157:H7 and non-O157:H7 STECs. FSIS plans to begin a short term study to determine the extent to which non-O157 STECs may be present in FSIS-regulated products, in support of regulatory infrastructure which may be needed for these organisms.

FSIS will provide an update on initiatives to control E. coli O157:H7, many of which were implemented in 2007 following an increase in the number of E. coli O157:H7 positive tests in ground beef, recalls and associated illnesses caused by this pathogen.

FSIS will discuss growing evidence that may support a determination that raw beef products such as primal cuts and boxed beef contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 are adulterated. Although this determination is not yet the official position of FSIS, the Agency recognizes that such a change would be substantive and would require stakeholder input. Therefore, FSIS is initiating a discussion at this public meeting and will present preliminary information to address the Agency's consideration of its position on primal cuts and boxed beef products that may lead to the conclusion that further risk mitigation actions are necessary.

FSIS officials will discuss the results of a checklist completed in Nov. 2007 of approximately 2,400 ground beef suppliers and producers which will allow the Agency to better prioritize E. coli O157:H7 testing and related food safety assessments. The survey results will help direct the Agency in developing future direction to FSIS inspection program personnel and industry, policies and possible rulemaking. Other Agency initiatives to be discussed include sampling programs, risk and food safety assessments as well as import food safety issues related to beef trim testing.

Meeting participants and panelists will represent government, industry, academia and other constituencies to discuss research progress and potential solutions for moving forward in controlling E. coli O157:H7. There will be multiple opportunities for public comment and questions on both days.

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