Declaring These Pathogens Adulterants the Right Thing to Do 

Statement by Nancy Donley, President, STOP Foodborne Illness

“STOP Foodborne Illness (STOP) (formerly Safe Tables Our Priority) applauds USDA’s announcement today declaring six highly-virulent, pathogenic strains of E. coli as adulterants in beef products. Now in addition to E. coli O157:H7, certain beef products that test positive for the E. coli strains O26, O45, O103, O111, O121 and O145 will not be allowed to legally enter commerce and will be subject to recall.

These additional six strains have been identified by CDC for more than a decade as being harmful to consumers, causing severe illness and death. STOP has advocated for years the need to declare, at minimum, these harmful strains adulterants. We’re pleased to see the USDA act proactively rather than in reaction to another major foodborne illness outbreak such as the case in declaring E. coli O157:H7 an adulterant in 1994.

STOP has catalogued numerous cases of foodborne illness, and death, from these six strains in its foodborne illness victims’ database. The victims’ personal stories poignantly convey the trauma and devastation wrought by consuming contaminated food and make an ironclad case for the need for stronger policies such as the one announced today. I personally experienced the horrific reality of watching my only child, my 6-year-old son Alex, suffer and die from E. coli O157:H7-contaminated ground beef, and I know that these other strains cause the same effects. We are convinced that this new policy will spare countless consumers from debilitating illness and death.

We are well aware that USDA faced tremendous opposition from the meat industry and foreign meat suppliers in declaring these additional strains illegal. USDA did the right thing by putting public health and safety before that of industry’s bottom line.

Current policy only covers beef products that will ultimately become ground beef. We urge USDA to take another brave step and close this loophole by expanding the adulterated classification to include all raw beef products, such as roasts and steaks.”