USDA to Speed E. coli Tracking Process in Meat


WASHINGTON (Dow Jones) — The U.S. Department of Agriculture will unveil plans Wednesday to begin acting quicker to prevent outbreaks of E. coli illness by tracking contaminated ground beef to its source as soon as a preliminary test detects the bacteria, according to a government document viewed by Dow Jones Newswires.

The USDA now waits for confirmation tests before it takes any action, but the new rule would allow officials to begin chasing tainted meat immediately, according to the government statement scheduled for release later Wednesday.

“The additional safeguards we are announcing today will improve our ability to prevent foodborne illness by strengthening our food safety infrastructure,” USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Elisabeth Hagen said in the statement. “Together, these measures will provide us with more tools to protect our food supply, resulting in stronger public health protections for consumers.”

USDA said it was required to make the changes in this proposed rule by Congress when it passed the 2008 farm bill.

As soon as there is any indication that ground beef is contaminated with E. coli in what the agency calls a “presumptive positive test,” USDA said it will “link products, companies, and the pathogen to a sole source supplier and to any other processors that received the contaminated product from the supplier, instead of waiting for confirmation.”

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit consumer group, lauded the USDA proposal, but said the same should be done for other types of bacterial contaminations.

“Rapid traceback is essential for reducing the impact of E. coli outbreaks, and protects both consumers and the meat industry,” the group said. “When it comes to testing for E. coli, it makes sense to start traceback procedures upon a presumptively positive test result, and not lose valuable time waiting for a confirmation.”

Source:  Dow Jones

Posted by Haylie Shipp


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