Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Making Beef Even Safer

New methods aim to keep E. coli in beef lower all year
By Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY

The dead of winter may not be the time when most people's thoughts turn toward the allure of a hamburger on the grill. But from a food safety standpoint, it's probably the safest time there is to eat ground beef.

"The theory is that animals are carrying higher levels of E. coli during the summer months, and sometimes they may overwhelm the systems in place to control pathogen contamination in (processing) plants," says James Marsden, a professor of food safety and security at Kansas State University.

Research has been focusing "on how to level out that curve," says Marsden, also senior science adviser to the North American Meat Processors Association.

So industry and researchers are turning their sights to new technologies being deployed on the farm, the feedlot and at the slaughterhouse to knock E. coli O157:H7 down to winter levels all year round.

There's an unconventional mix at the forefront of this fight: bacteria-eating viruses, a paper-bleaching chemical, vaccines and a kind of yogurt for cattle. Read More

I am proud of the fact that I am in involved in the first step of getting high quality beef to the consumer’s plate. Along with that, I am also concerned about keeping our food supply as safe as possible. No matter what type of food you are talking about, all of us need to take precautions to ensure it’s safe to eat. Farmers and ranchers who raise cattle have contributed tens of millions of dollars of their own money over that last several years to find even better ways to ensure beef is safe to eat. We have the safest food supply in the world, but that’s not good enough for us, we want to make it even better. I want to thank this reporter for providing a straight-forward, informational piece highlighting these efforts. It just goes to show that it is possible for reporters to educate people about agriculture and food production without having to scare them out of eating.

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