Meat/Poultry Inspection

Statement of CFA Director of Food Policy Thomas Gremillion on USDA Announcement to Expand STEC Testing to Additional Raw Beef Products

The announcement that USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service will soon expand its pathogen testing program for raw beef products is welcome news for consumers. In 2018, following a recall by Cargill Meat Solutions, Inc. of 132,606 pounds of ground beef products suspected to be contaminated with E. coli O26, Consumer Federation of America and other members of the Safe Food Coalition questioned whether USDA should do more to protect consumers from raw beef products adulterated with Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (“STECs”). In particular, we pointed out that while FSIS has considered any product contaminated with one of six STEC strains to be adulterated since 2011, it does not test most types of raw beef products for these adulterants. By contrast, the agency tests extensively for E.coli O157:H7, which the agency classified as an adulterant in 1994. In recent years, infections from E.coli O157:H7 have decreased, while infections non-O157 STECs have increased. Now, starting February 1 of next year, USDA will begin testing for all of the adulterants that it prohibits in raw beef products. This policy reform will save lives.