FSIS Takes Aggressive Actions To Combat E. Coli O157:H7
| Congressional and Public Affairs
WASHINGTON, Oct. 23, 2007 - The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection
Service (FSIS) today announced new, ongoing and upcoming actions to protect public health against the risk of
E. coli O157:H7, including expanded testing and more rapid recalls. FSIS also provided an update on
stepped-up efforts initiated in the spring and summer of 2007.
"We want the American consumer to know that FSIS has taken a number of aggressive actions to respond to
a recent increase in E. coli O157:H7 recalls and illnesses associated with this pathogen and we are further
expanding these efforts," said Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Richard A. Raymond.
In June 2007, FSIS identified an increased number of E. coli O157:H7 positive tests in beef, as well
as a larger number of recalls and illnesses caused by this pathogen than in recent years. Immediately, the
agency took a number of steps. For example, FSIS increased the number of tests of ground beef for
E. coli O157:H7 by more than 75 percent in July and began planning for a new follow-up testing program
for federally inspected beef plants that had positive tests for E. coli O157:H7. Additionally, FSIS
accelerated implementation of initiatives scheduled for spring 2008 in response to concerns about increased
positives of E. coli O157:H7. FSIS accelerated its plans to review suppliers and processors based on
a new checklist, once inspection program personnel complete specialized training, which begins next week.
"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 Raymond. "We also realized that to make
risk-based inspection in processing most effective, we need to strengthen our database that will support that
FSIS determined steps were also needed to ensure that inspection program personnel and the industry fully
understand the nature of the challenge presented by E. coli O157:H7. The agency is ensuring that suppliers,
processors and FSIS will be able to identify an emerging problem as early as possible and to prevent contaminated
product from entering commerce.
On Oct. 4, FSIS publicly outlined the timeline of the Topps recall, the preliminary findings from its investigation
of the Topps recall, actions already taken by the agency and further steps to reduce E. coli 0157:H7. The
agency has also outlined these actions for consumer and industry organizations and sought their support in working
together to control this pathogen.
Key initiatives targeted to federally inspected plants that produce raw beef products include:
Testing and analysis of trim. Based on preliminary data from the agency's beef trim baseline and
scientific literature indicating that contamination of trim is related to contamination of ground beef, FSIS began
trim testing in March 2007, not waiting for final analysis of the baseline. By testing earlier in the production
chain to identify contaminated beef trim intended for ground beef, FSIS prevents this source from contaminating
the ground beef available to consumers. This also gives the agency more data to analyze in determining and
implementing the most appropriate actions to reverse upward trends.
Verifying control of E. coli O157:H7. FSIS notified the beef industry that, as of November,
all beef plants will be expected to verify that they are effectively controlling E. coli O157:H7 during
slaughter and processing. The agency also provided the industry specific examples of minimum controls that would
meet the minimum criteria for a "well-controlled" process. Identifying which establishments achieve the
minimums, and which establishments do not, will provide FSIS the critical information on establishments with
New checklist for verifying control. FSIS inspection program personnel will review both suppliers
and processors based on a new checklist, once they complete specialized training beginning the week of Oct. 29.
Data from the checklists will be completed in November and will be updated quarterly to help the agency more
quickly identify significant changes in plants' production controls and ensure the company takes corrective
action. FSIS will analyze the checklist data and use it to adjust programs or policies as needed.
Testing more domestic and imported ground beef components. FSIS will begin testing materials
that are used as components in raw ground beef, in addition to the beef trim already tested, which is the primary
component. FSIS is also requiring countries whose beef is imported to the U.S. to conduct the same sampling or an
More rapid recalls. FSIS now takes into account a broader, more complete range of evidence when
evaluating whether to seek a recall or take regulatory action. This gives the agency a credible approach to more
rapidly taking action when certain types of evidence are available. In two recent cases, FSIS acted upon
epidemiological evidence that linked illness to opened, FSIS-inspected product found in consumers freezers.
Targeting routine testing. In January 2008, FSIS will begin routine targeted sampling for
E. coli O157:H7 at slaughter and grinding facilities. Currently, all plants have an equal chance of being tested.
Under this new verification testing program, FSIS will test larger volume operations more frequently than in the past. Data
from the checklists will be used to determine testing frequency for establishments.
Ensuring safety of imported beef products. FSIS notified countries that export raw beef product to
the U.S. of new policies and programs and is working with them to ensure they implement the same or equivalent
measures to protect the public from E. coli O157:H7 risks.
One key to these efforts will be strengthening communications with public health partners, industry and consumer
representatives and internally with inspection program personnel. These efforts include:
Working with federal partners. On October 17, FSIS, along with the Department of Health and Human
Services' Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hosted a public
meeting regarding E. coli organisms other than O157:H7 that are related to foodborne illness. FSIS expects
that any future steps taken to reduce the prevalence of non-O157:H7 E. coli will be better understood by all food
safety partners due to such meetings.
Working with small plants. In October and November, FSIS will target outreach and training
sessions around the country for small and very small raw beef processors, other stakeholders and FSIS inspection
program personnel. This training will focus on new E. coli O157:H7 policies, as well as lessons learned
from the recent recalls associated with E. coli O157:H7.
Working with stakeholders. Later this fall, FSIS plans to convene a meeting of experts and
stakeholders to examine the current situation with E. coli O157:H7, factors that may be leading to an increased
number of positive test results and recalls and the additional steps that FSIS and the industry can
Working with public health partners. This winter, FSIS will hold a meeting with its State and
local public health partners, FDA, CDC, industry and consumer groups, about how to improve the effectiveness and
efficiency of outbreak investigations and recalls conducted by FSIS in collaboration with these partners.
A comprehensive list of actions by FSIS to reduce E. coli O157:H7 is posted on the FSIS website at
Transcript of Tele-News Conference Regarding E. coli O157:H7 Actions (Oct 23, 2007)
October 23, 2007
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