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The USDA 'E. coli Loophole' in Ground Beef: Much Ado About Nothing
Date:11/28/2007

resent.

The recent articles go on to enumerate that some of these products may include "precooked hamburgers, meatloaf, meatballs, crumbled taco meat and other products." An author of one of these articles -- from the Chicago Tribune -- noted: "There is no evidence that 'cook only' meat has directly sickened consumers." Dr. Kramer agrees: "I was pleased to read that. I would add that there is no inferential evidence that any of these products have been involved in any foodborne illnesses."

Many processors that cook meat, as a matter of policy, choose not to purchase any products that test not negative for E. coli O157:H7 and, in fact, require a certificate of analysis showing the negative result. This is purely at the discretion of the individual company. However, Dr. Kramer states, "The circulation of these articles only serve to undermine the good work that is being done by the beef industry -- particularly, at the slaughterhouse level - - utilizing numerous interventions to reduce and eliminate E. coli O157:H7, followed by microbiological testing for product destined for raw hamburger meat, which is serving as a model for other food commodities." He goes on to explain, "That is not to say that there is a zero risk that a consumer will get raw hamburger meat that does contain E. coli O157:H7 and, although, according to USDA regulation, that product is adulterated, the consumer has the responsibility also to cook the product thoroughly to 160 degrees F minimally, wash their hands, and not cross-contaminate between raw beef and ready-to-eat foods -- whether via hands, cutting boards, plates or utensils."

Food safety is clearly a partnership, one that is getting stronger from the farm to the fork. However, all segments -- including consumers -- must do their part. Worrying about whether or not your pre-cooked hamburger or meatball at one time contained E. coli is meaningless. Utilizing a food thermometer to validate your cooking temperatures for
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SOURCE EHA Consulting Group, Inc.
Copyright©2007 PR Newswire.
All rights reserved

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