E. Coli Traceability and Eradication Act Would Mean Safer Beef

Aug 10, 2010
Megan Bedard is a sucker for sustainable agriculture and a good farmers market, she likes writing about food almost as much as eating it.
A new bill could make your meat safer. (Photo: Fotoos Van Robin/Creative Commons)

On August 2, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) introduced H.R. 6024—or, in layman's speak, the E. Coli Traceability and Eradication Act.

Backed by national consumer organization Food and Water Watch, the bill combines elements of two previous bills: the E. Coli Eradication Act of 2009 (S.2792) and a bill to amend the Federal Meat Inspection Act to include E. coli as an adulterate (S.3435).

If the E. Coli Traceability and Eradication Act passes, what will it mean for you, the consumer? In short: safer meat.

The primary goal of the bill is to eradicate E. coli—a bacteria that can, and has, caused serious food poisoning.

According to Food and Water Watch, these are just some of the regulations included in the bill:

  • Requires slaughterhouses and grinding facilities to implement a more stringent testing program of the source material used to make ground beef.
  • Requires that slaughterhouses test beef trim before it is shipped out or ground, and requires grinding facilities to test beef trim before they grind it.
  • Requires that testing must be done by an independent testing facility that is USDA accredited and meets the same standards as USDA testing programs.
  • Upon encountering a positive sample, a facility will be required to report it to USDA and to either send the entire production lot to cooking in order to kill the E. coli, or throw it out. Testing companies must be contracted on a yearly basis and cannot be fired for having numerous positive results.
  • Habitual violators (those with three consecutive days of positive samples or 10 days in a year) will have their company listed on a public USDA webpage.
  • All imported trim and ground beef will also be subject to the same new testing requirements.

If implemented, these regulations would be monitored by the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

The bill also calls for stricter measures in tracing meat that tests positive for contamination, including new sampling protocols to ensure that contaminated meat is quickly detected and traced; requirements that all sites of contamination—including preparation and packaging establishments—be identified; and mandatory subsequent testing for 15 days following detection of a contaminated sample at the facility where contamination was found.

"H.R. 6024 closes gaping loopholes in the current food safety system that put consumers of ground beef products at risk," said Food & Water Watch's Senior Lobbyist Tony Corbo.

And you can help this bill along.

"The best way people can support this bill now is to call their representative and tell them that this is an important bill to keep E. coli and other contaminants out of our food system and allow the USDA to better trace contaminated meat," Corbo said. To do so, see the action link below.

To learn more about what's in the bill, check out this article from Food and Water Watch's press room. To keep tabs on the bill, follow it here.

Photo: Fotoos Van Robin/Creative Commons via Flickr

Show Comments ()

More on TakePart

Midnight Basketball Is Back in New Orleans