CFI Applauds USDA “Big Six” E. coli Decision

Will Result in Fewer Recalls, Illnesses and Deaths

September 12, 2011


GROVE CITY, PA, Sept. 12, 2011 -- The Center for Foodborne Illness Research and Prevention today applauded USDA’s decision to label six disease-causing strains of E. coli as adulterants in food. The adulterant label means there will be zero tolerance for these strains of E. coli – known as the Big Six -- in certain beef products.


CFI CEO Dr. Barbara Kowalcyk said, “Before today’s decision, USDA could not test for these pathogens until after consumers were sickened. This is a huge preventive step to keep products, contaminated by these deadly pathogens, out of our food supply. The impact this decision will have on public health is enormous and should result in fewer recalls, fewer illnesses and fewer deaths from foodborne illness.”


In April, CFI initiated a strong grassroots movement asking the Obama Administration to make the Big Six adulterants and nearly 1600 people signed CFI’s petition. Pat Buck, CFI’s Director of Outreach and Education said, “Individual citizens can have a huge impact in making changes in Washington. CFI thanks all those who took part in this important effort.”


Until today, only E. coli O157:H7 was considered an adulterant in certain beef products. USDA’s declaration adds E. coli O26, O111, O45, O121, O103, and O145 to the list. According to USDA officials, in addition to domestic products, the one billion pounds of beef products imported annually into the United States will also fall under the new policy. Dr. Tanya Roberts, Chair of CFI’s Board of Directors and a former senior economist at USDA said, “The economic impact of this new policy is significant, with the benefits far outweighing the costs. By leveraging existing testing programs, USDA will be able to take contaminated products out of the food chain, out of restaurants and grocery stores, and off our plates at minimal cost and, at the same time, increase consumer confidence in the food supply. This is not only good for public health but it is also good for business.”




Founded in 2006 to help America find science-based solutions to the food safety challenges of the 21st Century, the Center for Foodborne Illness Research & Prevention (CFI) is a national 501 (c)(3) health organization dedicated to preventing foodborne illness through research, education, advocacy and service. CFI founders, Barbara Kowalcyk and Patricia Buck, were featured in the documentary Food Inc. in order to raise awareness about the serious public health issues, as well as the gaps created by outdated food safety laws, that have been associated with foodborne illness.