AirTalk for September 15, 2011

Where’s the (tainted) beef?

Mercer 21117

afagen/Flickr (cc by-nc-nd)

Headquarters for the United States Department of Agriculture.

The United States Department of Agriculture announced yesterday that they would require the beef industry to test for six more strains of e.Coli bacteria than they already do. Beef manufacturers have had to test for one type of e.Coli for nearly two decades, after tainted meat sold at a Jack In The Box restaurant killed 4 people and sickened 700 in 1993. According to the USDA, they’re too often stuck behind the 8-ball, scrambling to react to an outbreak instead of stopping them before they start. They say regulatory policy must change and evolve, just as food borne pathogens have. The meat industry is steamed about the new regulations. They say it’s expensive to implement and the science just doesn’t hold up. According to the American Meat Institute, the industry’s oldest and largest trade group, they want to eliminate toxic beef from the food supply just as much as the USDA, but there’s just not enough evidence linking ground beef to outbreaks. They also insist that increasing the number of pathogens that manufacturers must test for won’t positively impact public health and will increase the cost of their products for consumers. The argument essentially comes down to science: do these six strains of e.Coli sicken consumers? If they do why would the beef industry want to keep them on the market? If they don’t, why would the USDA want to hamper an important U.S industry with unnecessary regulations?

Guests:

William Marler, Attorney specializing in foodborne illness; food safety expert. He petitioned the USDA to ban these six strands 2 years ago

David Theno, President and CEO of Gray Dog Partners Inc. and former Senior V.P. and Chief of Food Safety Officer at Jack in the Box


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