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Zero tolerance policy extended by USDA to six further E.Coli serogroups

Just like the more widely known serotype E. coli O157:H7, these non-O157 Shiga-toxin producing serogroups of bacteria can lead to hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a blood disease that can result in fatal kidney failure, especially in young children.

Some beef industry processors have already agreed to test all of their lean beef for the non-0157 serogroups, but others continue to challenge the implementation of the new rules, claiming it will unduly impact trade and the meat industry. The Beef Industry Food Safety Council (http://www.bifsco.org/) contends the new regulations will cost the industry 173-323 million dollars annually .

While already testing for E. coli O157, Australia, Canada and New Zealand contend that by demanding the testing of imported goods to the USA for further serogroups of E. coli it may violate existing trade agreements under the World Trade Organization (WTO). They argue that the USDA FSIS should provide a risk assessment under Article 5 of the WTO agreement. The USDA issued a draft risk assessment on non-O157 E. coli In August 2011, but it remains unclear whether this was submitted to the WTO. The USDA FSIS have already updated their Microbiological Laboratory Guidebook (MLG 5B.01) to add the detection and isolation of the same non-O157 serogroups in meat products, which became effective November 4, 2011. It specifies a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) method for screening and isolating the non-O157 serogroups. On January 13, 2012 one company announced they have developed a commercial method of testing for the non-O157 serogroups. However, the USDA FSIS postponed the implementation of a routine sampling program for these serogroups until June 4, 2012 to allow more time to prepare.

by S. C.
15 february 2012, World News > America

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