One strange facet of discussion of this summer’s unprecedented series of E. coli outbreaks has concerned the U.S. government’s byzantine web of regulations of the bacteria. The bottom line seemed to be that only one strain of E. coli, out of six that regularly sicken humans, is illegal. The area is so fraught that, in early July, the FDA provoked a minor media outburst when it seemed to be indicating that it, unlike the USDA, classified all strains of disease-causing E. coli as illegal contaminants.
But now, Food Safety News is reporting that the ‘Big Six’ strains of E. coli could soon all become illegal. The move is said to be imminent — one expert told FSN it will happen within the year, and could happen as soon as next week. Classifying a strain as a contaminant means that, if that strain is found in a given batch of meat, that meat cannot be sold. Meat producers do not have to test their product for strains that are not classified as contaminants — even if they present risks to consumer health.