Wednesday, October 3, 2012

U.S. expanding meat testing

The United States plans to test meat for a broader range of E. coli strains that shed poisons.

It was testing by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service that identified E. coli 0157:H7 contaminating a shipment of beef trimmings from the XL Foods Inc. plant at Brooks, Alta.

It took the company and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency weeks to eventually recall more than 1,500 beef products totaling more than 1.5 million pounds and to shut down the plant so it can be cleaned up.

The Food Safety and Inspection Service says it plans to test for six non-O157 strains of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) in fiscal 2013 and may also propose merging its E. coli and Salmonella testing programs to enable testing the same sample for multiple pathogens.

“We are expecting to expand beyond (testing) trim sometime in 2013,” Emilio Esteban, FSIS executive associate for laboratory services told attendees at the Prevention of Shiga-Toxin Producing E. coli Conference hosted by the North American Meat Association in Chicago.

When FSIS started testing beef trim for non-O157 E. coli in June, the agency indicated it planned to eventually expand testing beyond trim.

Expanded testing could include, for example, other ground beef components, such as cheek meat and other raw materials used to make ground beef. 

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has said nothing about testing beyond E. coli 0157:H7,  but it’s likely that when the U.S. makes its move,  Canadians will follow in order to maintain access to the U.S. markets.