In an effort to safeguard the food supply and prevent foodborne illness, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced last week that six additional serogroups of pathogenic E. coli will be declared adulterants in non-intact raw beef.
Current regulations ban the sale of ground beef containing E. coli O157:H7, a virulent strain of bacteria that has caused death, illnesses and the recall of millions of pounds of ground beef and other products.
But, as a result this new action, the USDA will also ban the sale of ground beef containing any of a half-dozen additional E. coli strains –which are known as the “Big Six non-057s” and which can also cause severe illness and death.
“The impact of foodborne illness on a family can be devastating,” said Under Secretary Elisabeth Hagen. “Consumers deserve a modernized food safety system that focuses on prevention and protects them and their families from emerging threats. As non-O157 STEC bacteria have emerged and evolved, so too must our regulatory policies to protect the public health and ensure the safety of our food supply.”
The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) will begin testing for these six serogroups of STEC and enforcing the new policy on March 5, 2012.
Not everyone supports these new regulations.