DAKOTA DUNES, SD – Beef Products Inc. (BPI) is expanding its food-safety program by testing all of its ground and raw beef for an additional six, non-O157 pathogenic forms of E. coli, including: E. coli O26, O45, O1O3, O111, O121 and O145. This industry-first initiative is part of the company’s hold-and-test through which BPI samples its lean beef products prior to sale and holds the products while awaiting test results for the presence of pathogens from independent, certified, third-party labs.

BPI calls itself the world’s leading producer of lean beef processed from fresh beef trimmings. Its beef is sold or used in raw ground beef only after determining all test results are negative. The new testing protocol will begin at BPI’s processing plant in South Sioux City, Neb., and is expected to be implemented at its other three plants within two months, after a sufficient supply of test kits is available.

“BPI has always been an industry leader in our commitment to ensuring food safety and quality in our beef,” said Craig Letch, BPI’s director of quality assurance. “BPI led the hold-and-test initiative and has applied its own rigorous program for more than 15 years, and we are now expanding our testing even further to include testing for these other potentially harmful bacteria.”

Although most E. coli are not pathogenic, these Shiga-toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) pathogens, collectively referred to as non-O157 STECs, are forms of E. coli that are capable of producing negative health effects similar to those caused by E. coli O157:H7, which is the most widely known strain to raise serious health concerns in the US, according to BPI.

“Our goal is to provide the safest and highest quality beef,” Letch said. “Using newly available testing methods, we are able to add tests for these additional STECs beyond O157:H7, which will help us further ensure the safety and quality of our lean beef and that consumers are better protected from potential exposure to these harmful pathogens.”

The company said recent global health concerns caused by E. coli pathogens other than O157:H7 and in foods other than beef were part of BPI’s decision to expand its testing. Its new testing regimen includes the six additional pathogens, which are recognized as the “big six” pathogens by the USDA, the company said. However, the recent outbreak in Europe, which health officials determined was caused by E. coli O104:H4 in bean sprouts, is not one of the “big six” and not part of BPI’s new testing protocol.

According to BPI, the additional testing will “add significantly to the cost of its hold-and-test program,” however on a per meal basis the testing is estimated to cost less than $0.00005 per meal.