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May 31st, 2012
11:18 AM ET

USDA to test for six more serious strains of E.coli

In an effort to reduce the risk of eating contaminated meat, the USDA will expand the search for dangerous bacteria.

Beginning next Monday, the U.S Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection services (FSIS) will begin testing ground beef for six additional strains of E.coli that are responsible for a number of serious illnesses in the United States.  If the meat is found to be contaminated, it will not be allowed to be sold and could be subject to a recall.

There are over 700 different strains of the bacteria E.coli. Although most of these types are harmless, there are those that can cause serious problems, by attacking the intestinal tract. Contracting certain forms of E.coli can lead to such problems as diarrhea, nausea, dehydration and in some severe cases, death.

“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 food borne illnesses,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “We cannot ignore the evidence that these pathogens are a threat in our nation’s food supply.”

One in six Americans gets sick with a foodborne illness every year.

The USDA already tests for E. coli O157:H7.  The six new strains that will be tested for are Shiga-toxin producing E. coli (STEC) serogroups O26, O45, O103, O111, O121 and O145.  All of these strains can cause severe illness.  Young children and the elderly are at highest risk.

Feds speed up E. coli investigation procedures

This testing is another initiative developed by the President’s Food Safety Working Group, which is designed to prevent food borne illnesses by enforcing more testing and improving the way food products are handled.


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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.