CENTENNIAL, COLO. – As previously covered by MEATPOULTRY.com, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (C.D.C.) recently announced the rate of illness due to E. coli O157 significantly decreased in 2009. The 2009 E. coli illness rate is the lowest since 2004 and meets the Healthy People 2010 goal to cut the number of O157 illnesses in half. One beef industry expert lauds this news, but cautions the battle to eradicate this pathogen continues.

“Anyone involved in the ongoing battle to improve food safety is gratified by the news that illnesses from E. coli O157 have declined,” said James Reagan, Ph.D., chairman of the Beef Industry Food Safety Council (BIFSCo) and senior vice president of research, education and innovation for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff Program. “However, E. coli O157 is a tough, adaptable foe and our work is not done.”

The U.S. beef industry continues making strides toward reducing the incidence of O157 by implementing multiple interventions throughout the beef production chain, due to beef checkoff investments and widespread industry commitment.

“Beef industry efforts to reduce the incidence of E. coli O157 started in 1993, and our collective goal continues to be producing the safest beef possible for our consumers,” Mr. Reagan said. “We must remain aggressive in our efforts to keep this and other foodborne pathogens out of our food.”

Since 1993, beef farmers and ranchers have invested more than $28 million of Beef Checkoff dollars in safety research. The beef industry spends more than $350 million annually on safety efforts. Mr. Reagan cautions that although the news is encouraging, research to help industry better understand foodborne pathogens and identify new ways of controlling them must remain a priority.

In 1997, the checkoff founded BIFSCo to bring all segments of the industry together around the common goal of improving beef safety. This group shares the philosophy that the best safety solutions result from cooperation among the industry – when food-chain partners share the data, knowledge and experiences that contribute to improved safety systems. BIFSCo has led efforts to identify and implement farm-to-fork safety programs, including developing the best practices that serve as a road map for reducing E. coli throughout the beef production chain.