USDA Expands E. Coli Ban in Beef

September 15, 2011

Six new strains of Escherichia coli will be barred from raw meat sold on the U.S. market.

Following recent Escherichia coli (E. coli) outbreaks in U.S. produce and beef, the USDA announced on Tuesday that it will ban the sale of raw meat containing six new E. coli strains. Effective March 5, 2012, the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) will enforce the ban with a new testing program to detect the strains.

In 1994, the E. coli strain O157:H7 was banned when meat contaminated with the strain resulted in four deaths and hundreds of sicknesses. The serogroups O26, O103, O45, O111, O121, and O145 now join O157:H7 as declared adulterants.

"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," said USDA Under Secretary Elisabeth Hagen.

Meat industry advocates, including the American Meat Institute (AMI), are already voicing their concerns about the notion of a new enforcement program.

“Imposing this new regulatory program on ground beef will cost tens of millions of federal and industry dollars – costs that likely will be borne by taxpayers and consumers," said AMI.

Interested parties can send comments to the USDA within 60 days of the notice's publication in the Federal Registry.