Fairbank Farms recently recalled over 500,000 pounds of ground beef due to contamination with E. coli O157:H7. The contaminated beef led to 25 illnesses, including two deaths, in 10 states. In light of this Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D. Conn) is calling for an investigation into the method of sampling ground beef for the deadly bacteria currently approved by the USDA.
The sampling method, referred to as N-60, dictates what proportion of ground beef is sampled in a company’s E. coli O157:H7 testing program. According to Agriculture Online, Rep DeLauo says: "I am troubled by the shortcomings of the N-60 test … and that is why I am requesting an investigation into the scientific merits of this beef-testing protocol." DeLauro says that even though Fairbank Farms "samples product every 10 to 20 minutes to check for contamination … it was not enough to prevent contamination."
The meat industry defended its practice to Agriculture Online:
James Hodges, executive vice president of the American Meat Institute, said the AMI doesn’t oppose an investigation, but he stressed the testing method is sound. He called the testing method "a scientifically recognized statistical sampling method that is widely used in the industry to test for the presence of pathogens in meat products."