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Beef is about to get a little less full of E. coli

September 12, 2011 - 02:52 PM
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Photo: USDA/flickr

Federal food safety officials announced today that six strains of E. coli bacteria are hereby banned from the ground beef supply. The elimination of the six toxic strains, which have shown up increasingly in the food supply, was opposed by many in the meat industry, the New York Times reports.

E. coli 0157:H7 is the strain most associated with food-borne illness—the pathogen caused a major outbreak in 1994 that sickened hundreds, killed four children, and was subsequently banned. More recently, scientists have identified six additional, lesser-known forms of E. coli that have been making people sick. Not among these six strains is the highly virulent strain that sickened thousands and killed dozens of people who ate contaminated sprouts this summer. That strain escaped banishment because it has not been detected as a cause of illness in the U.S.

The USDA has been considering an expansion of its E. coli ban for at least four years, according to the Times. Starting in March, beef ranging from hamburger meat to tenderized steaks will be tested for these six strains. Products that test positive cannot be sold raw but must be heated to 160 degrees, which kills the bacteria, and sold as cooked products.


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