ID NEWS: FSIS sampling indicates E. coli contamination downward trend

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has released data showing a drop in the number of E. coli 0157:H7 positive samples in ground beef, to date in 2003, as compared with previous years. Of samples collected and analyzed through August 31, 0.32% tested positive, down from 0.78% in 2002 and 0.84% in 2001.

FSIS further notes that in 2000 it began using a much more sensitive test for the pathogen and that since 2001, it has collected more than 7,000 samples annually, up from 6,300 in 2000.

"The agency's sampling data suggests that initiatives begun in the past year are beginning to pay dividends," comments Dr. Gary L. McKee, FSIS administrator. "We have examined the HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) plans at more than 1,000 beef establishments and ended a 1998 program that exempted some establishments from random FSIS testing. We are also examining all plant-generated data to better detect future problems.

"We are far from satisfied, but the arrow is clearly pointing in the right direction."

Toward greater gains in the battle against food-borne illness, FSIS has launched new training initiatives for inspectors and compliance officers and installed new computer software to more quickly identify trends and areas in need of additional attention. In addition, FSIS recently announced a series of new, science-based initiatives, to better understand, predict and prevent biological contamination of meat and poultry products.
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