WASHINGTON—Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y) on April 26 urged U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack to include six additional strands of E. coli as hazardous adulterants that need to be tested by the USDA.
In addition to the most common form of E. coli that is already regulated, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified six other strands, known as non-0157 STECs, that are just as hazardous as E. coli and need to be regulated. The CDC estimates that non-0157 STECs cause 36,700 illnesses, 1,100 hospitalizations and 30 deaths in America each year.
“In America, in 2010, it is unconscionable that food is still going straight to our kitchens, school cafeterias and restaurants without being properly tested to ensure its safety,” Gillibrand said. “It’s spreading too many diseases and costing too many lives. The laws that are meant to keep us safe from hazardous foods are in critical need of updating. We need immediate action to keep our families safe.”
E. coli 0157:H7 is by far the most common strain in American beef. But non-0157 STECs are increasingly found in beef imported from other countries, but is never checked for since current law only requires imported ground beef to be checked for E. coli 0157:H7.
Safe Tables Our Priority (STOP) is leading the petition campaign calling on the USDA to expand the official E. coli classifications to include non-0157 STECs as a hazardous, regulated adulterant, and to regulate all strands of E. coli for all types of beef, not just ground beef or beef intended for ground beef.
Gillibrand’s letter asked for an official response to the two petitions requesting that the USDA include the additional strands of E. coli in their required testing.
Click here to read the full letter.