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USDA Institutes ‘Zero-Tolerance Policy’ for New E. Coli Strains

June 1, 2012 – Next week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) will being implementing new safety standards for six additional strains of E. coli bacteria that have been known to cause illnesses in humans. Under the new policy, FSIS will test raw beef manufacturing trim, which is what ground beef is mainly composed of, for the serotypes. Trim found to be contaminated will not be allowed into commerce and will be subject to recall. Free Food Poisoning Lawsuit Evaluation: If you or a loved one has been severely sickened after eating contaminated food, you should contact our law firm immediately. You may be entitled to compensation by filing a food poisoning suit and we can help.

What’s the problem?

Food poisoning illnesses caused by E. coli 0157:H7, which is generally thought to be the most widespread variety of the bacteria, are actually greatly outnumbered by other lesser-known serotypes. “These strains of E. coli are an emerging threat to human health and the steps we are taking today are entirely focused on preventing Americans from suffering foodborne illnesses,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “We cannot ignore the evidence that these pathogens are a threat in our nation’s food supply.” The strains that will be tested for under the new policy are:

  • Shiga-toxin producing E. coli (STEC) serogroups O26, O45, O103, O111, O121 and O145

Like E. coli 0157:H7, these serotypes have the potential to cause serious, potentially life-threatening illnesses. Children, the elderly, and individuals with compromised immune systems are at greatest risk. In addition to these policy changes, FSIS has recently implemented a number of other significant public health measures designed to safeguard the food supply, prevent foodborne illness, and improve consumers’ knowledge about the foods they eat. These initiatives are intended to support the three core principles of President Barack Obama’s Food Safety Working Group:

  • prioritizing prevention;
  • strengthening surveillance and enforcement;
  • improving response and recovery.

Some of the group’s recent actions include:

  • Test-and-hold policy that will significantly reduce consumer exposure to unsafe meat products, should the policy become final, because products cannot be released into commerce until Agency test results for dangerous contaminants are known;
  • Labeling requirements that provide better information to consumers about their food by requiring nutrition information for single-ingredient raw meat and poultry products and ground or chopped products;
  • Public Health Information System, a modernized, comprehensive database with information on public health trends and food safety violations at the nearly 6,100 plants FSIS regulates;
  • Performance standards for poultry establishments for continued reductions in the occurrence of pathogens.

After two years of enforcing these standards, FSIS estimates that approximately 5,000 illnesses will be prevented annually under the updated Campylobacter requirements, and approximately 20,000 illnesses will be prevented each year under the revised Salmonella standards.

Do I Have a Food Poisoning Lawsuit?

The Food Poisoning Litigation Group at our law firm is an experienced team of trial lawyers that focus on the representation of plaintiffs in food poisoning lawsuits. We are handling individual litigation nationwide and currently accepting new cases in all 50 states. Free Food Poisoning Lawsuit Evaluation: If you or a loved one has been severely sickened after eating contaminated food, you should contact our law firm immediately. You may be entitled to compensation by filing a food poisoning suit and we can help.

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