E. coli 0157:H7 Stays At Top Of The News Heap

E.coli 0157:H7continued to be the top story again this week.

On the heels of Topps Meat Co. shutting its doors last Friday (Topps Closes; Recall Stokes Calls For Oversight," Oct. 5 BEEF Cow-Calf Weekly), Cargill announced its voluntary recall of nearly 850,000 lbs. of frozen hamburger patties.

The Cargill recall came after four children in Minnesota were diagnosed with E.coli 0157:H7 infections; all of them having eaten American Chef's Selection Angus Beef Patties purchased at Minnesota Sam's Club stores.

Topps, the largest U.S. manufacturer of frozen hamburgers, had recalled 21.7 million lbs. of frozen ground beef due to potential contamination with E.coli O157:H7. The product had been produced over a year-long period from Sept. 25, 2006 through Sept. 25, 2007. It was the fifth-largest recall ever.

In addition, USDA announced last Friday that it would not approve the highly anticipated E.coli vaccine from the Canadian company, Bioniche Life Sciences. The company said USDA found that data from a field use study last year at the University of Nebraska "would not support licensure at this time," Canadian Press reports. Bioniche responded that it would provide additional documentation, but might have to conduct additional field trials to meet USDA requirements.

Once again the industry's response to these unacceptable instances has been well thought and impressive in its scope. I doubt many producers were aware of the Beef Industry Food Safety Council (www.bifsco.org/AboutBIFSCo.aspx) and the work it does. But it surely is gratifying when the National Cattlemen's Beef Association can bring groups such as these forward to tell the story about the industry's comprehensive food-safety system that has been implemented at every production point throughout the system.

One could probably write a college thesis on the various reasons why the industry's internal divisiveness has led to such strong anti-USDA bias among a segment of producers. Still, it's almost inexplicable how we're allowing this bias to be introduced into the discussion of these food-safety issues.

The industry is correct in putting its emphasis on preventing these incidents, but we must also work together when it's time to put these incidents in context relative to food safety.