Nov 11, 2008 7:18 PM
Attorneys with the Seattle based law firm Marler Clark, say there's a big loophole when it comes to inspecting meat.
They say the USDA does not allow any ground beef with E. coli bacteria in it to be sold but it does allow what it calls in tact meat with E. coli to hit store shelves.
The theory is bacteria on the meat's surface will be destroyed in the cooking process.
Marler Clark attorneys argue most in tact meat sold doesn't stay that way, it is further processed at grocery stores and restaurants.
Officials with the USDA say over the last year the department has been trying to decide how best to deal with the E. coli 0157 H7, found in cow feces and intestines.
In a statement released to Action News they say:
â??The agency has shown it's commitment to discussing new and innovative ways to meet this challenge head on with all of our public health partners including industry, consumer groups as well as state, local and other federal public health entities.â?쳌
David Theno, a meat industry consultant, has more than 30 years of experience.
When the E. coli outbreak occurred at Jack in The Box in the early 90s, Mr. Theno was brought in by the fast food company to help fix the problem.
He says the meat industry goes above and beyond what is required in order to make sure the meat you eat is safe.
â??Food borne illnesses is not good for anyone, so food safety is an area where the industry competes, and tries to do better. Many interventions today and control methodologies that are available in the slaughter and fabrication process that almost all have been funded by the beef industry,â?쳌 says Theno.
Both Theno and attorneys at Marler lark agree more testing is not the answer in regulating E. coli.
Both say the changes need to be made in the slaughtering process and Theno says the beef industry is far ahead of the curve.
He says, â?쳌there's steam pasteurization of carcasses, there are organic acid and hot water rinses, there is a lot of work going on with anti-bacterial spraying with organic compounds to help reduce bacterial loads on carcasses.â?쳌
The industry also continues to look for new technologies and vaccination to prevent cattle from getting the E. coli bacteria in the first place.
Theno says the forest ranch E. coli outbreak can't just be blamed on the meat industry.
There are other factors he believes could have contributed to the contamination.
â??Its very unusual to have something like this happen to this small amount of affected people and not have other spots,â?쳌 says Theno.
While he says the beef industry is self-regulating he says consumers should also take steps to make sure what they're serving is safe.
Buy meat within proper USDA codes.
While steaks are ok, do not serve hamburgers rare and wash hands, knives, and all other utensils while handling meat.
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