Last year, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) was petitioned to declare six additional disease-causing and potentially life-threatening strains of E. coli, those referred to as non-O157 Shiga-toxin producing E. coli (STECs) or more succinctly, “the big six,” as adulterants. Specifically, those six strains include E. coli O26, O11, O103, O121
Salmonella and Campylobacter Found on Raw Chicken Sold at Farmers’ Markets
Esther French, Mattea Kramer and Maggie Clark, fellows with News21, a national university reporting project at the University of Maryland, recently conducted an investigation into the safety of poultry sold at certain farmers’ markets in Washington D.C. Their report appeared in today’s issue of the Washington Post. The investigation revealed some unsettling results…
FDA Announces FREE-B, A New Tool for Food-Emergency Readiness
Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in collaboration with other federal partners including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Department of
Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), released a new web-based tool called the Food Related Emergency Exercise Boxed set.…
FSIS Releases Draft Compliance Guide to Help Improve the Safety of Ready-to-Eat Products
Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture´s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) issued a press release announcing that it has posted a set of draft compliance guidelines to help small and very small meat and poultry manufacturers reduce harmful bacteria, such as Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes, in ready-to-eat (RTE) foods. The guidance aims to…
Food Safety Advocates Call for Testing of Non-O157 Strains of E. coli
The AP is carrying the story today of efforts of food safety advocates, including us here at Marler Clark, to push the USDA to include several strains of E. coli known to be pathogenic to humans in its testing requirements for ground beef. E. coli O157:H7 is the most well known of a group of pathogenic…
Food Poisoning Cost 3 Billion Annually – Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7 Alone
The USDA, on a new website on May 13, unveiled a cost of food poisoning calculator. To date, the only two pathogens with reported yearly costs estimates are Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7. The combined cost estimate for those two? In excess of $3 Billion.
According to the USDA, the estimates "include assumptions about disease incidence…
FSIS Progress Report on Salmonella in Meat and Poultry
In 1996, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service established the HACCP (hazard analysis and critical control points) rule to verify that establishments have consistent process control for preventing, eliminating, or reducing the contamination of raw meat and poultry products with disease-causing bacteria like Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, and campylobacter. The rule, in…
Standards For Beef Too Lax, According To USDA
When it comes to consuming beef manufactured and sold in the US, a new report by the USDA warns there are many more concerns for the consumer beyond the usual pathogens mentioned in this journal (ie, E. coli, Campylobacter, etc.). As reported today by CNN, contained within the average…
USA Today Reports Sweeping Changes in Beef Acquisition for School Lunches
Blake Morrison and Peter Eisler report in today’s edition of the USA Today:
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced sweeping steps Thursday to "assure the safety and quality of food" purchased for the National School Lunch Program.
The measures include tightening requirements on companies that supply ground beef to schools, testing the beef more
Class I Beef Recall due to E. coli Contamination
West Missouri Beef, LLC has voluntarily recalled 14,000 pounds of boneless beef products due to potential contamination by E. coli O157:H7. USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced the Class I recall in a press release last night. It is the third Class I recall this year, and the fifth since November, adding up to 1,636,000 pounds of beef products that have been recalled due to potential E. coli O157:H7 contamination in the last 3+ months.
What is a Class I recall?
A Class I recall, according to FDA definitions, should occur when "there is a reasonable probability that the use of or exposure to a violative product will cause serious adverse health consequences or death." Class II and III recalls are appropriate only when there is a significantly lesser, or remote, risk of adverse health consequences, or when the health consequences are minor. Due to its lethal capacity, E. coli O157:H7 is a bacteria that always requires a Class I recall.
What is E. coli O157:H7?
Escherichia coli (E. coli) are members of a large group of bacterial germs that inhabit the intestinal tract of humans and other warm blooded animals (mammals, birds). Newborns have a sterile alimentary tract which within two days becomes colonized with E. coli.
More than 700 serotypes of E. coli have been identified. The different E. coli serotypes are distinguished by their “O” and “H” antigens on their bodies and flagella, respectively. The E. coli serotypes that are responsible for the numerous reports of contaminated foods and beverages are those that produce Shiga toxin (Stx), so called because the toxin is virtually identical to that produced by another bacteria known as Shigella dysenteria type 1 (that also causes bloody diarrhea and hemolytic uremic syndrome [HUS] in emerging countries like Bangladesh) (Griffin & Tauxe, 1991, p. 60, 73). The best known and most notorious Stx-producing E. coli is E. coli O157:H7. It is important to remember that most kinds of E. coli bacteria do not cause disease in humans, indeed, some are beneficial, and some cause infections other than gastrointestinal infections, such urinary tract infections. This section deals specifically with Stx-producing E. coli, including specifically E. coli O157:H7.
Shiga toxin is one of the most potent toxins known to man, so much so that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists it as a potential bioterrorist agent (CDC, n.d.). It seems likely that DNA from Shiga toxin-producing Shigella bacteria was transferred by a bacteriophage (a virus that infects bacteria) to otherwise harmless E. coli bacteria, thereby providing them with the genetic material to produce Shiga toxin.
Although E. coli O157:H7 is responsible for the majority of human illnesses attributed to E. coli, there are additional Stx-producing E. coli (e.g., E. coli O121:H19) that can also cause hemorrhagic colitis and post-diarrheal hemolytic uremic syndrome (D+HUS). HUS is a syndrome that is defined by the trilogy of hemolytic anemia (destruction of red blood cells), thrombocytopenia (low platelet count), and acute kidney failure.
Stx-producing E. coli organisms have several characteristics that make them so dangerous. They are hardy organisms that can survive several weeks on surfaces such as counter tops, and up to a year in some materials like compost. They have a very low infectious dose meaning that only a relatively small number of bacteria, less than 50, are needed “to set-up housekeeping” in a victim’s intestinal tract and cause infection.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that every year at least 2000 Americans are hospitalized, and about 60 die as a direct result of E. coli infections and its complications. A recent study estimated the annual cost of E. coli O157:H7 illnesses to be $405 million (in 2003 dollars) which included $370 million for premature deaths, $30 million for medical care, and $5 million for lost productivity (Frenzen, Drake, and Angulo, 2005).
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