NCBA takes action to reduce E. coli O157:H7
More than 200 industry leaders, representing each link in the beef production chain, participated in an intensive summit here in January.
"The leaders of our industry have taken unprecedented action to ensure that safe, wholesome U.S. beef becomes even safer," says Terry Stokes, CEO, National Cattlemen's Beef Association, which managed the summit on behalf of the Cattlemen's Beef Board and America's beef producers. "Safety has always been our top priority and as a result, U.S. beef is one of the safest in the world. But we can do even better. I am confident that the farm-to-table solutions we've identified at this summit will help us further reduce and eventually eliminate E. coli O157:H7 in the beef supply," Stokes adds.
The action plan is designed to build on recent successes in combating foodborne pathogens. An April 2002 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed an overall 23 percent decline in illness from the top four bacterial pathogens since 1996. Moreover, the report states that E. coli infections alone dropped 21 percent since 2000.
The summit focused on identifying good manufacturing practices, interventions and research needed to reduce the incidence of E. coli.
Action steps were identified for each industry segment: cattle production, fabrication, processing, retail and foodservice. Specific actions recommended include:
* Expanded research and fast-tracked approval of interventions such as cattle vaccines and feed additives.
* Standardization of safety testing and verification at packing plants.
* Uniform practice of sampling, testing and negative confirmation before meat processing.
* Microbial control systems for foodservice suppliers.
* Consumer information regarding cooking temperatures and thermometer use at point of purchase.
NCBA adds, these actions will complement existing intervention practices including thermal pasteurization and carcass washing systems that eliminate or reduce the presence of pathogens.
"These research breakthroughs coupled with industry-initiated meetings such as this summit are the kinds of creative solutions that will help us all live up to our commitment to safety," says Dave Theno, Ph.D, chair of the summit's Foodservice Working Group and senior vice president of quality and logistics for Jack In The Box. "In the past decade, we have made tremendous strides in reducing the incidences of foodborne illness," he adds.
Stokes adds, "The working session and the actions we have identified are great examples of the cooperation and collaboration that always have been characteristic of our industry. I know that the nation's beef producers feel more confident than ever in the safety of the beef we put on America's tables, including our own."