Meat industry lying about E. coli contamination

By Dr. Matthew Watson

The meat industry has been misusing data to make it appear that E. coli contamination of meat is decreasing, said Barbara Kowalcyk of the Center for Foodborne Illness, Research and Prevention.

Executives from the American Meat Institute (AMI) have claimed success in the beef industry's efforts to reduce contamination with the dangerous E. coli strain O157:H7. According to the AMI, inspection data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) Food Safety and Inspection Service show a 45 percent drop in E. coli prevalence between 2000 and 2008.

Yet Kowalcyk calls this is a misuse of data never intended for "year-to-year comparisons."

"USDA's E. coli ... testing program is strictly regulatory and was not statistically designed to estimate the prevalence of E. coli O157:H7 in raw ground beef," she said.

Although a 45 percent drop is in fact found in the data, Kowalcyk notes that different facilities were tested and different testing methods used each year. She called the AMI's conclusion as valid as comparing a person who weighed 300 pounds in 2000 to a different person weighing 150 pounds in 2008, then concluding that the average weight of the U.S. population had dropped 50 percent. Read more...

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