CFA and other members of the Safe Food Coalition submitted the following comments in support of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service’s (FSIS’s) proposal to expand testing for Shiga Toxin-Producing Escherichia coli (STECs) in raw beef products. Under current rules, FSIS considers both E.coli O157:H7 and six other non-O157 “STECs” to be adulterants in raw beef products. However, the agency tests a much broader range of beef products for E.coli O157:H7, despite non-O157 STECs contaminating the same meat products and causing a larger number of infections among consumers each year. The announced proposal would eliminate that disparity, however, the agency has not indicated a timeline for implementing the new testing protocol. Furthermore, the agency has signaled that it will not require meatpackers to conduct their own testing for non-O157 STECs, as it does for E.coli O157:H7.
The Safe Food Coalition comments urge USDA FSIS to implement the new testing protocol by December 1st, 2020 (180 days from the date of the agency’s Notice), and to revise guidance to industry and directives to inspection personnel to clarify meatpackers’ obligations to test for and otherwise prevent non-O157 STEC contamination.