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U.S. Beef Is a Safe and Nutritious Choice For Consumers

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

 Washington, D.C. – As European food safety officials continue their investigation of the tragic E. coli O104:H4 outbreak centered in Germany – a source that does not involve meat – the American Meat Institute (AMI) said the struggle to understand its origins reveals how little is known about this class of E. coli called non-O157:H7 shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) both in Europe and in the U.S.

“Given the knowledge gaps that exist regarding non-O157:H7 STEC, it is particularly concerning that some policymakers and bloggers are advocating solutions without first scoping out the problem,” said AMI Executive Vice President James H. Hodges.  “Effective public health efforts are built upon a solid foundation of understanding.  Bacteria don’t respond to legislative and regulatory bans.  A rush toward these types of ‘solutions’ during an emotional time when significant knowledge gaps remain will not create the food safety progress that policymakers – and food makers – seek.”

Despite some domestic anxiety stemming from the outbreak in Europe, AMI said that U.S. beef safety news is encouraging.  On June 7, 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that the U.S. achieved its 2010 public health goal for reducing E. coli O157:H7 infections in people two years in a row and that much of this progress can be tied to improvements in meat plants and in beef production management practices.  Also noteworthy is the fact that only one outbreak in the U.S. involving three people has been linked to non-O157 STEC in beef. 

Hodges further noted that the AMI Foundation has been proactive in its research efforts aimed at identifying strategies to destroy these strains of non-O157:H7 E. coli.  These projects supplement other work ongoing at research institutions and together, the data indicate that the food safety strategies that have helped reduce E. coli O157:H7 in beef work equally well against all strains. 

“The food safety interventions and process controls in place today do not discriminate,” Hodges said.  “They clearly are effective against all strains of E. coli, including non-O157:H7 STEC. 

AMI has long advocated a measured, scientific approach to the potential risk posed by all STEC strains, including non-O157:H7 STEC.  That sentiment was captured in an August 2010 letter to Agriculture Secretary Vilsack in which AMI recommended eight strategies that would help build future public policy efforts on a sound foundation.  Those strategies included:

To read the entire letter to Secretary Vilsack, click here:  http://www.meatinstitute.org/ht/d/ArticleDetails/i/62189

“Ensuring that our products are as safe as we can make them is ethically appropriate and good business,” Hodges said.  “We want our customers to enjoy safe and nutritious products throughout their lives and that means we must stay vigilant at all times in meeting emerging food safety challenges. That is exactly what we are doing.”



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