The American Meat Institute (AMI) said proposals tabled by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand for a new law obliging meat processors to regularly test beef for the pathogen both before it is ground and again prior to being combined with other beef, ingredients or spices and packaged as hamburgers would not be a “food safety silver bullet”.
“If we could eliminate E. coli O157:H7 in ground beef by passing a bill in Congress, we would have insisted that such legislation be enacted years ago,” AMI president J Patrick Boyle told FoodProductionDaily.com. “Unfortunately, it’s not that easy.”
But the New York senator insisted the bill was vital to plug gaps in the inspection procedures in meat processing plants and protect the health of consumers. The safety of ground beef, particularly in hamburgers, has become a national talking point in the US after an article in the New York Times raised concerns about safety checks for E. coli during processing.
Senator Gillibrand said she had proposed the new E. Coli Eradication Act after a survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found one in every 200 samples of ground beef was contaminated with the potentially deadly bug. CDC figures revealed an estimated 87 million Americans are sickened by contaminated food, 371,000 are hospitalized with food-borne illness, and 5,700 die from food-related disease every year, she added.
"In America, in 2009, 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. We need to do a better job of catching contaminated food before it ever comes close to a kitchen table. My plan addresses the gaps in the inspection process and improves recalls and public education.”
Aporte: Claudia Villarroel