CHICAGO, Feb. 11 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — S.T.O.P.-Safe Tables Our Priority is asking the USDA to give a life-saving gift this Valentine’s Day by declaring disease-causing E. coli’s other than O157:H7 as adulterants in beef and begin testing for them.
E. coli O157:H7 was declared an adulterant in ground beef in 1994 in the aftermath of the west coast outbreak that sickened over 700 people and killed at least 4. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified 6 additional strains of shiga-toxin producing E. coli (STEC) — O26, O111, O103, O121, O45 and O145 — that are associated with severe illness and death. Just like E. coli O157:H7, these other STEC strains are found in cattle and get into our beef supply when feces contaminate the meat during slaughter and processing.
"The USDA and CDC have known for decades of the public health risk posed by non-O157 STEC. In 2000 they mandated public health laboratories report positive test results for these strains," said Nancy Donley, S.T.O.P.’s President whose 6-year-old son died from E. coli O157:H7-contaminated ground beef.
S.T.O.P. member Dana Boner lost her 14-year-old daughter to E. coli O111 in 2007. "If anything else but food had killed her, we would be looking for the cause," said Dana. "But USDA policy makes it impossible. You can’t find what you’re not looking for, and USDA needs to start actively looking for these pathogens. It’s too late for Kayla, but not too late for others."
In 2007 and 2008 USDA had public meetings on this issue, but has failed to enact any prevention-based strategy for these pathogens. Instead, USDA declared that it would first conduct testing of ground beef and components to determine the extent of non-O157 STEC and implement a regulatory program if needed.
"While S.T.O.P. has no objection to conducting a baseline study, we object to holding up declaring these additional E. coli strains as adulterants in beef," said Donley. "We have been urging USDA for years to enact health-based prevention strategies for these killer strains of E. coli. S.T.O.P. supports many families like Dana’s, whose loved ones have been ill from the non-O157 STEC’s. The American public is tired, and getting sick, from waiting."