NEWS SCAN: E coli bill criticized, African Flu Alliance set to launch

Jun 2, 2010

Bill to ban non-O157 E coli in meat draws fire from industry
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., recently introduced a bill to ban six non-O157 strains of pathogenic Escherichia coli in meat, which quickly drew criticism from the American Meat Institute (AMI), a trade group. The proposed law would add the six strains (O26, O45, O103, O11, O121, and O145) to the list of adulterants in meat, require meat companies to test for them, and give the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) authority to find and regulate other toxic strains in the future, Gillibrand said in a press release. Declaring the strains adulterants will require the USDA to begin testing for them and recommend best testing practices to companies. The bill, which has no cosponsors, was introduced May 27 and referred to the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, according to the Library of Congress. The AMI responded to the bill by saying in a May 27 statement, "We don't believe that an act of Congress can make these bacteria disappear." The group expressed puzzlement that the bill targets only meat, in the wake of a recent E coli O145 outbreak linked to romaine lettuce. The AMI asserted further that no "confirmed outbreak" of any of the six strains has ever been linked to a meat product, that there is no test available to detect the six strains, and that the USDA has said existing food safety systems work equally well for all pathogenic E coli strains. The USDA has been considering for 3 years whether to classify the six non-O157 strains as adulterants, according to a recent New York Times report. The agency has voiced reluctance to do that until it has tests that can detect them quickly, which are expected to be ready by the end of next year, that report said.
May 27 AMI statement

African Flu Alliance to hold first meeting this week
Aiming to strengthen influenza surveillance and control efforts in Africa, African health officials and representatives of international organizations and other groups will hold the first meeting of the African Flu Alliance Jun 3 and 4 in Marrakesh, Morocco, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced recently. The new group seeks to promote collaboration and information exchange among stakeholders in Africa and beyond, the WHO's Regional Office for Africa said in a May 31 statement. "We know that influenza has a significant impact on morbidity and mortality throughout Africa, but unfortunately, we don't have a great deal of data that shows this," Dr. Keiji Fukuda, pandemic flu adviser to the WHO director-general, said in the statement. Dr. Sylvie Briand, head of the WHO's Global Influenza Programme, added that competing health needs and a lack of information have combined to prevent steps to reduce the impact of flu in Africa. A key goal of the meeting is to raise awareness of the need to strengthen flu surveillance capacity and to develop intervention strategies. Besides African national health officials, groups participating in the new alliance include the Association pour la Medicine Preventive, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the US National Institutes of Health, the German Technical Cooperation, Foundation Merieux, the Institut Pasteur International Network, the Fogarty International Center, and the Programme for Appropriate Technology (PATH).
May 31 WHO news release

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