(RxWiki News) Heading into 2012, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is unveiling new strategies aimed at protecting consumers from foodborne illness by adding new rules to safeguard beef.
Upon implementation, the steps could significantly reduce the number of individuals sickened from potentially deadly bacteria such as E. coli.
"Always cook meat thoroughly to avoid illness."
USDA officials will implement a "test and hold" policy in 2012 that will require facilities to keep a product until microbiological testing reveals it is safe to be consumed by the public.
The agency also will designate all beef that tests positive for any shigella toxin-producing E. coli bacteria "adulterated" and unfit to be sold. Only one strain is covered under existing rules even though other strains sicken about 112,000 every year. The new rule covers six additional strains.
Additionally new poultry standards could prevent as many as 25,000 foodborne illnesses each year, officials noted.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said that as families gather to share the holiday season, it is restating the agency's commitment to protecting Americans.
He noted that a number of steps have been taken in recent years to improve the safety of meat and poultry in the U.S.
Other recent steps taken to increase safety of the food system, include the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Egg Safety Rule in 2010, which is expected to prevent 79,000 illnesses associated with eating raw or undercooked eggs and save $1 billion each year.
An FDA and USDA partnership established a Produce Safety Alliance at Cornell University designed to produce educational and training materials for growers of any size.
The FDA also recently announced the creation of the Food Safety Preventive Controls Alliance, which will develop training courses focused on preventing food contamination at the production phase to protect both consumers and animals.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 1 in 6 Americans suffers from foodborne illness annually, resulting in 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths each year, most of which are preventable.