Meat safety chief: Increase E. coli testing

Philip Brasher of the Des Moines Register reported from Seattle this morning that USDA’s undersecretary for food safety, Richard Raymond, said he’s determined to increase testing for E. coli contamination before he leaves office, adding,

"We need to address this tougher problem and take some moves there to help protect the American public."

Raymond, a physician who was formerly the chief medical officer in Nebraska, said results from some public health laboratories shows illnesses form non-O157 strains of E. coli are “at least as prevalent” as O157 illnesses. He said the non-O157 strains are harder to detect.

I’m at the same conference, Who’s Minding the Store? – The Current State of Food Safety and How It Can Be Improved, hosted by lawyer and barfblog sugar daddy Bill Marler.

Washington  Governor Christine Gregoire (right) gave the food safety luncheon address.

I chatted with the affable Dr. Raymond after his presentation, and asked him if USDA would consider using video cameras to augment veterinary inspection in slaughterhouses. He said, "ask me after next Thursday."

Raymond, and several of the other speakers stated that the political-media focus on a single food inspection agency was a distraction.

I agree. Whatever is done, it should reduce the number of sick people. That’s the measure that counts, and one where progress has stalled.