USDA Expanding E. Coli Testing in Ground Beef

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The United States Department of Agriculture announced it will expand its testing for E. coli contamination in ground beef starting Monday, according to CNN.

The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Services plans to start testing ground beef for six additional strains of E. coli that have caused a number of serious illnesses across the nation. Any contaminated meat cannot be sold and may be subject to a recall.

Experts say there are more than 700 strains of E. coli bacteria, but most types are harmless. However, some strains attack a person’s intestinal tract and cause problems like diarrhea, nausea and dehydration. In some severe cases, death is possible, especially with young children and the elderly.

The USDA says that each year one in six Americans gets a food borne illness. The agriculture secretary said evidence shows these strains of E. coli are an “emerging threat.”

The USDA currently tests for E. coli O157:H7. The new tests will include O26, O45, O103, O111, O121 and O145. All of these strains are known to cause severe illness.

The testing was added as part of the President’s Food Safety Working Group’s initiative to prevent food borne illnesses through improved food handling and more testing.

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