Though overall E. coli O157 illnesses have fallen by 50% since 1998, the most recently available outbreak data shows a slight increase in illnesses from this dangerous pathogen, according to USDA.
Aiming to turn the trend back in the right direction, the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service's Strategic Performance Working Group – which includes field personnel, microbiologists, and policymakers – released a new strategy to address pathogenic E. coli in beef slaughterhouses.
The SPWG determined that a reduction in O157 could be achieved in two ways. First, the Agency needs to improve how FSIS inspection personnel verify plant performance of sanitary dressing procedures. This will be done through better training, more correlations, and developing a standard to assess industry's performance of sanitary dressing.
Drawing on the experience of its members, the SPWG also stated that the training would be most effective if it included photographs and real-world scenarios to effectively illustrate the issues discussed in the documents.
Second, the SPWG recommended improving the information available to industry on how sanitary dressing should be performed. The SPWG said the Agency could do so by publishing a guide containing suggestions for best practices.
More detailed information about the SPWG's recommendations mentioned here are available in the Performance Working Group: Shiga Toxin-Producing E. coli Findings report.