Washington, DC (WIBX) - Following the deadly outbreak of a new strain of E.Coli bacteria in Europe, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is introducing legislation that aims to change food safety standards in the U.S. She says currently the FDA only requires testing of one strain of E.Coli bacteria; the 0157:H7 strain.

Gillibrand said, "This means products coming from Germany or other countries are never tested for the deadly strains that has sicken so many Europeans. Clearly, we need to crack down on all known contaminants--my bill does this; it targets and tests for pathogens that cause the vast majority of food born illnesses." Gillibrand says the measure builds on her previous efforts to test for six additional confirmed strains of the dangerous bacteria; (0157: H7, 026, 045, 0103, 011, 0121, 0145, 0104: H4)

The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, is calling for meat companies to test for additional bacteria and gives the USDA more authority to regulate testing for meat, poultry and eggs.

Gillibrand released the following specific issues targeted by the measure:

  • Requiring plants that produce the cuts and trimmings that make ground beef to test their products regularly before it is ground and again before all the components are ground together. For those facilities where source trim and grinding occurs at the same facility, the legislation requires one test of the source trim and another test of the final ground product. If ground beef is found to be contaminated, the bill requires the company to properly dispose of the contaminated batch, or cook the meat to a temperature that destroys the E. coli.
  • Requiring foreign facilities to certify their product has been tested for E. coli to be eligible for importation into the country. The domestic facility receiving the product would be required to verify the results with secondary testing.
  • Requiring slaughterhouses, producers and grinding facilities receiving trimmings to use independent testing facilities operating under annual contracts. The requirement of an annual contract would prevent companies from firing a testing facility as retribution for too many positive E. coli test results found by the lab.
  • Sets a threshold of 25,000 lbs of trim per day for compliance implementation to reduce the burden on small producers. Those producers under the threshold have 3 years before they must comply with the new regulation. Approximately 90 percent of producers are above the threshold and 86 plants produce roughly 75 percent of all ground beef.
  • Calls for habitual violators to be listed on a public website. Any slaughterhouse or processing establishment that produces or distributes trim with positive E. coli test results for 3 consecutive days, or more than 10 times per year, will be deemed a habitual violator. The bill also establishes regulatory action for plants that fail to test or fail to notify the USDA Secretary of positive E. coli results.

In a released statement the senator said, "How many more outbreaks will we allow, and how many more lives will we lose, before we wake up and take real action,” she said. She goes on to say,  “We’ve known the hazards of E. coli for years. It’s time we get serious, and keep contaminated food in check before it ever reaches a grocery store shelf or kitchen.”