New legislation will strengthen food safety measures, protect consumers

Washington, DC – Congresswoman Rosa L. DeLauro (CT-3) introduced the E. coli Traceability and Eradication Act today, which will require stricter testing procedures for meat and processing facilities with the goal of completely eradicating the dangerous Shiga toxin-producing E. coli bacteria, and establishing a tracking procedure that will enable the USDA to implement faster recalls should any be found to be contaminated.

Shiga toxin-producing E. coli are bacterial pathogens similar to E. coli O157, the most commonly known and reported strain. It causes the same type of illness, and can be found in processed meat, ground beef, and can be transferred to other food products such as packaged lettuce. By implementing stricter and more comprehensive testing of meat, slaughterhouses, and grinding facilities, this critical legislation will ensure that our food supply is safer. The bill will require that these facilities to test ground beef and beef trim multiple times throughout the manufacturing process by an independent, USDA-certified testing facility, including ‘beef trim,’ leftover pieces from larger cuts of meat commonly used in ground beef, that have not previously been subject to analysis.

Should any facilities be producing products that are unsafe for either three consecutive days or ten days throughout a year, their company named will be posted to a list of safety offenders with the USDA. Additionally, the legislation will create a tracing protocol that will enable the USDA to track any contaminated meat or meat products, leading to faster recalls and less hazard to consumers. For facilities that are found to be producing contaminated meat, the USDA will test their products for 15 consecutive days following the positive test.

“By the end of this year, an estimated 57,000 people will have been made ill from E. coli, which represents an astounding failure on the part of our food safety system. We must do more to address the dangers American consumers face on a daily basis from these hidden killers, and ensure that the food entering the marketplace, our homes, and even our schools, is safe.

“This legislation will require rigorous new testing standards, calling for multiple examinations of products and specifically testing for all Shiga toxin-producing E. coli bacteria. And should test results reveal E. coli contamination, this bill will require slaughter facilities to report it to USDA immediately. Also, because this bill will require processors to test incoming beef trim, it would cease the current industry practice of processors being blackballed by their suppliers.

“Another important component of this bill is that, when E. coli is detected at a facility, it would require USDA to establish a traceback procedure all the way back to the original source of the contamination. This will allow USDA to recall products more quickly and prevent additional illnesses during an outbreak. Our current food safety system is not doing its job— contaminated meat is still hitting the shelves, and people are still getting sick. This legislation will establish higher standards for food safety and protect the public health.”