Food (Safety) Fight
By: richard raymond

Chasing E. coli

Source of Article:

(The views and opinions expressed in this blog are strictly those of the author.)

Two recent ground beef recalls as a result of FSIS routine testing  reminded me that the perception of food safety is every bit as important as reality when it comes to consumers' buying practices.


The latest recall was for a very small amount of product, and, as usual, no illnesses have been reported from the product. But as long as producers roll the dice and ship ground beef that has been tested by FSIS before getting the results, the consumers will continue to get regular reminders that eating ground beef carries risk with it.


Thus far this year, I can only find evidence of two ground beef recalls, and both as a result of FSIS testing. In 2008, it appears to me that there were 8 recalls of ground beef as a result of industry or FSIS testing with no illnesses related to the product. In 2007 there were 21 recalls, 10 because of testing, and in 2006 there were only 8 recalls, all as a result of testing with no illnesses related. So it could be said that so far in 2009 and in all of 2006, there would have been no ground beef recalls if test and hold had been practiced by all in the industry; and therefore no resultant bad publicity.


In a presentation at a conference organized by FSIS in April 2008, Dr Robert Tauxe of the CDC gave a very interesting presentation on the demographics of who gets infected with E Coli, and what caused the illness


Tauxe reported that up until 2000, ground beef was the culprit in 100% of E. coli 0157:H7 outbreaks from which the source was discovered. In 2006 that number was down to 25% of outbreaks that had ground beef as the source. He also said that only 33% of E coli illnesses are related to ground beef, and that 34% are related to produce.


I do realize that holding is a significant problem for the small grinder, but FSIS is doing less testing in the small and very small plants now, reducing the burden somewhat. So perhaps it is time for industry to share thoughts and ideas on how to economically test and hold and therefore reduce the amount of bad press that comes with recalls without related illnesses?


We can start that sharing process right here, right now.


Main Page

setstats            Copyright (C) All rights reserved under

            If you have any comments, please  send your email to