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USDA, FSIS To Begin Testing For More Strains Of E.Coli

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Washington, DC (WIBX) - Starting next week, the USDA and Food Safety Inspection Service will begin testing for six additional strains of E. coli. The new policy is aimed at targeting pathogens that cause the vast majority of food-borne illnesses, and in some cases even death.

Last year, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand introduced “The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act” calling for additional testing, including giving the U.S. Department of Agriculture more authority to regulate testing for meat, poultry and eggs. Officials say the new zero-tolerance policy is to safeguard the nation’s food supply. In a released statement, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said, “These strains of E. coli are an emerging threat to human health and the steps we are taking today are entirely focused on preventing Americans from suffering foodborne illnesses. We cannot ignore the evidence that these pathogens are a threat in our nation’s food supply.”

According to Gillibrand, every year, 76 million people become sick, 325,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die from food-borne illnesses caused by contamination from any one of a number of microbial pathogens. And, she said approximately 3.2 million New Yorkers are infected with food-borne illnesses each year. The additional strains to be tested are Shiga-toxin producing E. coli (STEC) serogroups O26, O45, O103, O111, O121 and O145. Officials say the new safety measures are in addition to other health initiatives put in place by FSIS during President Obama’s administration.

It’s estimated that in Oneida and Herkimer County, every year, 48,912 people contract a food-borne illness.

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