USDA Moves to Keep Deadly E. Coli Out of Meat

The bad news: as long as we keep on hearing about E. coli outbreaks, there’s still poop in our food. The good news: the USDA is stepping in to make it harder for meat processors to sell tainted meat to the population. The regulations in question target different pathogenic strains of the deadly E. coli bacteria, which is inadvertently transmitted from animal fecal matter into ground beef during the processing stage.

The New York Times reports: “The new rule, which officials said would be announced on Tuesday, means that six relatively rare forms of E. coli will be treated the same as their notorious and more common cousin, a strain called E. coli O157:H7. That strain has caused deaths and illnesses and prompted the recall of millions of pounds of ground beef and other products.”

Though lots of other toxic bacteria are allowed to be sold with meat (surprise!), E. coli strains pose a significant problem, which is why they are singled out for regulation. Whereas no one would dream of serving undercooked or raw chicken or turkey, many foodies prefer their beef rare. This means that it doesn’t get to temperatures high enough to kill the bacteria, causing problems for the consumer.

Though most consumer protection groups believe that this is ultimately a move that will save lives, beef industry insiders are — in a familiar trope — saying that this is unnecessary regulation that will only hurt businesses and job creators. Says the American Meat Institute in a statement, “Imposing this new regulatory program on ground beef will cost tens of millions of federal and industry dollars — costs that likely will be borne by taxpayers and consumers. It is neither likely to yield a significant public health benefit nor is it good public policy.”

Given how deadly these six bacteria are — they are linked to kidney failure and death — double checking for them is the least that the meat industry could do. This is especially true given the fact that E. coli doesn’t simply appear out of nowhere: it comes from feces from inside the factory. Furthermore, in light Cargill’s recent recall of tainted turkey meat, it seems like these regulations could actually help the industry retain credibility instead of hurting business.

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Cargill Recalls Ground Turkey, Again

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Photo credit: ilovebutters's Flickr stream.

81 comments

Nimue Pendragon

I don't eat it.

Carole R.
Carole R.5 years ago

Seems like a no-brainer.

Kalinka Poprawski

Thanks for the article.

Kris G.
Kris G.5 years ago

Ugh. I wish that we didn't have ro worry about all of this.

Faith Billingham
Faith Billingham5 years ago

thanks for the article

Molly F.
Molly S.5 years ago

The only meat I consume is from local grass fed cows. It's expensive but it's an occasional treat.

Carole C.
Carole Chowen5 years ago

Those who eat vegan diets are affected by this as well. All E. Coli comes from the gut of an animal. When it is found in vegetables & fruits, it is most often from the atrocities of "animal agriculture", and the massive amounts of waste produced which pollutes fields and water sources. It could come from wildlife, but not as likely. Why do so many carnivores feel so threatened by those of us who choose to eat a healthy, cruelty free diet?

K s Goh
KS Goh5 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Allen J.
Allen J.5 years ago

Thanks for the article! This has exposed the meat industry as doing quite a "shitty" job. (couldn't resist) More regulations means safer meat and unfortunately common sense has long been forgotten by a lot of meat producers-too much money to be made off of not caring. Buy organic-grass fed and cruelty free meat which is way safer and (compared to mass produced meat) will not contain the harmful bacteria and sickness-causing pathogens found in mass-produced meat.

Sally S.
Sally S.5 years ago

atleast their trying to do something about it:)