Press Release

Meat Institute Tries To Pass The Buck On E. Coli Testing Of Ground Beef, Gillibrand Says Congress Should Take Action

Oct 16, 2009


In response to a statement from the American Meat Institute that said that the E. coli Eradication Act authored by U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand would only “duplicate” testing
currently being done by the industry, Senator Gillibrand said that in the
absence of corporate responsibility, Congress must act.

meat industry makes some valuable points about the need to handle and cook
ground beef carefully, but they are choosing to ignore their own best
practices.  Leading processors in the industry, like Costco, have already
determined that they cannot rely on suppliers alone to test the meat. 
Costco says that testing the meat they receive from slaughterhouses is
‘incumbent upon’ them, and I agree.

USDA has established proper sampling and testing methods that help ensure safer
products. The meat industry would do better by their consumers if they chose to
adopt their own best practices and the guidelines from the USDA. However, in
the absence of corporate responsibility, Congress should take action.”

this week Senator Gillibrand, the first New York senator to sit on the Senate
Agriculture Committee in nearly 40 years, announced a comprehensive plan to overhaul the nation’s food safety laws by improving inspection, recall
response, and public education.  A cornerstone of Senator Gillibrand’s
plan is new legislation to mandate E. coli inspections of ground beef.

a 2009 industry-wide sampling of all ground beef produced, the USDA Food Safety
and Inspection Service found that nearly 1 in every 300 samples of ground beef
was contaminated with E. coli.  Ground beef is especially vulnerable to E.
coli because its source material is not from a single cut of meat, rather, from
a compilation of trimmings from many parts, including fat that lies near the
surface of possibly contaminated hide. While some grinders that process ground
beef voluntarily test the meat before and after grinding, there is currently no
federal requirement for grinders to test their ingredients for E. coli. 

To reduce the risk of E. coli ending up in the hamburgers and other food we
eat, Senator Gillibrand is authoring the E. Coli Eradication Act – new
legislation that would require all plants that process ground beef to test
their products regularly before it is ground and again before it is combined
with other beef or ingredients, such as spices, and packaged. 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.  Senator Gillibrand’s legislation will include appropriate penalties
for companies that fail to implement testing mechanisms at their

more information on Senator Gillibrand’s food safety plans, click here.