It’s deja vu all over again — reports are coming in that E. coli O157:H7, the bacterium that contaminated spinach and lettuce last fall, is back. This time, it has been detected in ground beef, and 75,000 pounds of the meat has now been recalled by its producer — United Food Group LLC, based in California. So far, there are reports of only a dozen people being ill — and we can hope that will be the extent of damage done to human health.
Beef producers have stepped up their efforts to reduce such contamination, by treating beef carcasses with steam or various chemical washes, and their efforts have been largely successful. But this most recent outbreak tells us that more must be done to protect the food supply. As we've said many times, irradiation could stop E. coli (as well as many other food contaminants) in its tracks. Irradiation of red meat has been tested over and over — the FDA has approved it, and the CDC has noted that it is both safe and effective. Irradiation can provide another layer of safety to methods already being used and would take the worry out of summer barbeques.
See also: ACSH's full report on Irradiated Foods.