Maybe it was Bill Marler’s $500,000 study on non-O157 STECs (finding non-O157 STEC contamination of retail ground beef in about 1% of samples), or maybe it was his petition to USDA-FSIS to finally call a spade a spade and declare that the “big six” non-O157 STECs are “adulterants.”  Whatever the case, the case for outlawing things in our food supply that kill us may be gaining momentum amongst regulatory types.  According to Dan Flynn at Food Safety News,

The pathogenic Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia Coli (pSTEC) serotypes known collectively as the “Big Six” will soon be banned from U.S. meat, a top expert told a meat industry conference Thursday.

Action to declare the six non-O157:H7 serotypes as adulterants in meat could come as early as next week, according to Mohammad Koohmaraie, chief executive officer for the meat division of IEH Laboratories & Consulting Group based in Lake Forest Park, WA.

For certain, he says, the Big Six — O26, O111, O103, O121, O45 and O145 — will be listed as adulterants no later than one year from now.

Koohmaraie delivered his comments at the two-day “Prevention of E. coli” conference in Chicago, organized by the Virginia-based North American Meat Processors Association (NAMP).

How will industry respond?  Some might take the initiative and not fight progress in the name of safety.  Costco and Beef Packers Inc. have already taken the bold, industry-leading steps of committing to a testing program for the Big Six non-O157 STECS, despite the cost and any regulatory or administrative burden. 

It is not as if industry does not have the technology, tools and capability to do these tests.  In comments delivered recently at the IAFP conference, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said:

FSIS, together with FDA and CDC, have kept an eye on non-O157 STEC for several years. We’ve engaged food safety stakeholders at public meetings about how to best protect the public from these pathogens… USDA has developed the tests for them – an important tool that we didn’t have when we launched our O157 testing program. And today we have leaders in the meat industry that have taken these tests and implemented them in their establishments.

So, USDA-FSIS is ready, consumers are ready, a couple of key players in the industry are ready.  Who is not ready?