Washington, D.C.—National consumer organization Food & Water Watch today praised Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) for introducing H.R. 6024 — the E. coli Traceability and Eradication Act, a bill that would close gaping loopholes in the current food safety system as it applies to the manufacturing of ground beef products.
“This is a well-thought out bill,” stated Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch. “It addresses some of the abuses and shortcomings within the meatpacking industry that put consumers at risk.”
This comprehensive bill incorporates elements of S. 2792 (The E. coli Eradication Act of 2009) and S. 3435 (a bill to amend the Federal Meat Inspection Act to revise the definition of the term “adulterated” to include contamination with E. coli.) introduced by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and S. 3163 (Meat Safety and Accountability Act of 2010), introduced by Senator Jon Tester (D-MT). Food & Water Watch supports all of these bills.
The bill calls for the following food safety measures to be implemented by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and by ground beef producers regulated by FSIS:
Eradication of Shiga Toxin-Producing E. coli
- 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 implementation of the testing program by large producers (those producing more than 25,000 lbs per day; these producers comprise 90 percent of the market) within six months of enactment. Small producers will be provided three years to comply with the new testing procedures.
- Provides assistance by USDA to slaughterhouses and grinding facilities to develop an adequate testing plan, including the definition of testing sizes and sample sizes.
- Requires that testing must be done by an independent testing facility that is accredited by USDA and that it 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 is also subject to the same new testing requirements.
Tracing Contaminated Meat
- Requires USDA to implement sampling protocols to enable FSIS to rapidly trace potential adulteration and contamination of meat and meat products by food-borne pathogens.
- After a meat or meat product sample tests positive for adulteration or contamination by a food-borne pathogen, the bill would require USDA to conduct a trace immediately to: identify all sites of adulteration and contamination, including preparation, packaging, and slaughtering establishments; and identify the original source of the adulteration or contamination.
- Directs USDA to require subsequent sampling at the establishment where a positive test is indicated for at least 15 consecutive days after the date on which the adulterated or contaminated sample is collected.
Along with the three Senate bills, Food & Water Watch will be keeping a close eye on H.R. 6024 and urge the House Agriculture Committee to take up the bill as qucikly as possible.