F.S.I.S. steps up efforts to prevent E. coli O157:H7

by FoodBusinessNews.net Staff
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WASHINGTON — Expanded testing and more rapid recalls are both parts of new efforts the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced to help protect the public against the risk of E. coli O157:H7.

"Lessons learned from a number of recalls, including the recent Topps recall, emphasized the need for us to do even more to strengthen our policies and programs," said Dr. Richard A. Raymond, undersecretary for food safety. "We also realized that to make risk-based inspection in processing most effective, we need to strengthen our database that will support the system."

Based on recent events, the F.S.I.S. has identified several key initiatives targeted to federally inspected plants producing raw beef. These include testing and analysis of trim, verifying control of E. coli O157:H7, new checklists for verifying control, testing more domestic and imported ground beef components, more rapid recalls, targeted routine testing and ensuring safety of imported beef products.

The F.S.I.S. said strengthening communications with public health partners, industry and consumer representatives, and inspection program personnel will be essential to fulfilling these efforts. To this end, the F.S.I.S. has said it will work more closely with federal partners, small plants, stakeholders and public health partners.

The F.S.I.S. said it has made efforts to step up protection against the pathogen since last spring and summer and especially since the department indentified an increased number of positive E. coli O157:H7 tests in beef in June. These actions included increasing the number of tests of ground beef by more than 75% in July and planning for a new follow-up testing program for federally inspected plants testing positive. In addition, the F.S.I.S. accelerated implementation of initiatives originally scheduled for the spring of 2008 and accelerated plans to review suppliers and processors based on a new checklist.

"We want the American consumer to know that F.S.I.S. has taken a number of aggressive actions to respond to a recent increase in E. coli O157:H7 recalls and illness associated with this pathogen, and we are further expanding these efforts," Mr. Raymond said.

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