CSPI Urges Testing for Antibiotic Resistant Salmonella as Well as New E. Coli Strains
Statement by CSPI Staff Attorney Sarah Klein
September 13, 2011
Today’s announcement by USDA that it will expand its E. coli testing program for beef beyond O157:H7 to search for six other potentially deadly strains of E. coli is welcome news for consumers who expect and deserve to eat food without risk of illness. The six new adulterant strains—E. coli O26, O45, O103, O111, O121, and O145—have been linked to at least 10 outbreaks and nearly 700 illnesses since 1998, according to data gathered by CSPI. The new testing program will help prevent future outbreaks, as products testing positive for these strains will be diverted to further processing and not placed into commerce. The costs of the program are reasonable, particularly when stacked against the risk to consumers: approximately half a million dollars for USDA, and under $5 million for the entire $155-billion U.S. meat industry.
Now USDA should turn its attention to another class of potentially deadly pathogens, antibiotic-resistant Salmonella. Earlier this year, CSPI petitioned the agency to declare four of these pathogens as adulterants under the law, which would trigger the same testing protocols now being undertaken for deadly E. coli strains. Since the petition was filed, consumers have already seen a huge recall of ground turkey contaminated with ABR Salmonella Heidelberg, and the same company, Cargill, implicated in that recall has just announced another recall of ground turkey contaminated with the exact same strain. Today, the agency has shown its willingness to exercise authority to declare non-O157 E. coli strains as adulterants; consumers deserve the same level of protection from antibiotic-resistant Salmonella as well.