E.coli plan under fire warn trade bodies

Meat processors could face £1m in bills for unnecessary and costly recalls if draft European Commission (EC) guidance for tackling food poisoning bug E.coli is implemented, trade bodies are warning. 

“If you find any one of a number of E.coli, you could end up binning a day’s kill,” Ian Anderson, executive manager of the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers, told delegates at the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers’ conference in Macclesfield on 18 September. “That could cost £1m in a big plant.”

Stephen Rossides, director of the British Meat Processors Association, wrote to Food Standards Agency (FSA) CEO Catherine Brown last week, highlighting industry fears about the guidance, issued last year. He also sent the same letter to food and farming minister George Eustice.

The guidance paper addresses procedures for testing for – and dealing with – Shiga toxin-producing E.coli (STEC) strains. However, industry groups claim the EC is unnecessarily focusing on these, because they pose less risk than more prevalent bugs such as salmonella and campylobacter.

They argue Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Point procedures routinely implemented in UK plants, together with thorough cooking, would deal with STEC contamination. They also contest guidance proposals for greater scrutiny of minced meat and ready-to-eat products.

“Our guys are concerned because, if you find STEC, the guidance almost inevitably leads to a withdrawal or recall,” said Rossides, who wants the FSA to press for withdrawal of the guidance or its modification.

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