Over the past few weeks, while we have watched Europe suffer from a deadly E. coli outbreak that has sickened thousands and left over 30 dead, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget continues to sit on a United States Department of Agriculture proposal to declare six disease-causing strains of E.coli as “adulterants” in food. The adulterant label means there would be zero tolerance for those strains of E. coli in certain beef products. If they are found in these products, they must be destroyed – taken out of the food chain, out of restaurants and grocery stores, and off our plates.
USDA sent in its request in early January. Yet, despite evidence from several outbreaks – both domestic and international – showing illnesses from these deadly strains of E. coli, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget says that the six strains are too rare and do not have a large enough economic impact to cause a policy change. We disagree and the people of Germany would too.
The United States needs to start tracking and condemning products contaminated with deadly E. coli strains because Americans need the same level of protection from other disease-causing strains of E. coli. Plus, we need to develop a process for identifying disease-causing foodborne pathogens so that, as new strains emerge, our federal food oversight agencies will have the authority to add new adulterants to the list.
Tell the White House that America needs a stronger food safety system and that they must approve the United States Department of Agriculture’s proposed policy change to declare additional disease-causing E. coli strains as adulterants in certain kinds of beef. The time to act is now, NOT after a similar monster E. coli outbreak strikes our citizens.