SOURCE: STOP Foodborne Illness; VeriPrime

October 31, 2013 07:00 ET

STOP Foodborne Illness Supports Implementation of an On-Farm E. coli Vaccination Pilot Study

CHICAGO, IL--(Marketwired - Oct 31, 2013) - The national not-for-profit public-health organization, STOP Foodborne Illness (STOP), whole-heartedly supports a 5-year pilot program to study the effects of a vaccination program to reduce the incidence of pathogenic E.coli in live cattle. The proposed vaccine pilot program is from VeriPrime™, a food safety cooperative with a membership that includes 70% of the fed cattle production. The primary goal of this pilot program is to verify the prevention of life-threatening Shiga toxin-producing strains of E. coli (STEC) and Salmonella in cattle through the use of a vaccination program. The vaccine -- already conditionally approved by the USDA -- would be an on-farm intervention for reducing the presence of pathogenic E. coli in cattle before the animals are brought to slaughter. By immunizing calves early on, the program can prevent these dangerous pathogens from entering the production chain and ultimately the beef supply. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that Salmonella and STEC are two of the top five pathogens responsible for foodborne illness

"STOP has advocated the need for use of on-farm interventions since its inception 20 years ago," said Nancy Donley, STOP Spokesperson. "It only makes sense to intervene, at the earliest possible point in the food production chain -- the animal. By reducing the incidence of these deadly pathogens in food animals, illnesses and deaths from contaminated food will be prevented."

The cattle vaccine was first introduced more than a decade ago; smaller test programs conducted by the industry during this period have shown its viability to reduce E. coli-contamination of beef.

"After 13 years, this pilot project remains the only operation-based plan of implementation, said Dr. Scott Crain, DVM, VeriPrime Founder and CEO. "VeriPrime members have organized to implement E. coli interventions. This five-year program could well prove the merits of on-farm prevention and ultimately make all beef better."

Crain believes for the pilot program to be effective, it begins with the farmer vaccinating their calves and then producers ensuring vaccinated cattle aren't co-mingled with non-vaccinated cattle. The proposed five-year pilot program would take place in large numbers of cattle across the industry to measure value, improve and fine-tune interventions. At its most basic level, the program would be three steps that begin with the vaccination of calves followed by the introduction of probiotics into the cattle feed. The animals would then be tracked and monitored for their levels of E. coli. Upon the successful completion of the five year pilot, a national E. coli/Salmonella Prevention System would officially be put into place.

"How many more people have to be sickened or die before a vaccine that is promising in other smaller studies is finally implemented in a formal five year trial program?" questioned Donley. "The time has to be now to move this testing and evaluation direct to the farm; there should be no more preventable deaths because a child ate a contaminated hamburger. STOP will continue to build the case for the necessity of on-farm interventions."

Foodborne Illness and E. coli Facts (Source: CDC)

  • Each year, around 48 million Americans -- one in six -- get sick from eating contaminated foods, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases.
  • E. coli has several strains and not all are harmful; however, Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STECs), including E. coli O157:H7, is the one most-identified when E. coli is associated with foodborne outbreaks.
  • An estimated 265,000 STEC infections occur each year in the United States.
  • STEC live in the guts of certain animals, including cattle, goats and sheep; the major source for human illnesses is from cattle.
  • Salmonella and STEC are two of the five top pathogens contributing to foodborne illness and death.

About STOP Foodborne Illness
STOP Foodborne Illness is a national nonprofit public health organization dedicated to the prevention of illness and death from foodborne pathogens by advocating for sound public policy, building public awareness, and assisting those impacted by foodborne illness. This year marks STOP's 20th anniversary. For more information, to sign up for their e-newsletter, or to volunteer, visit http://stopfoodborneillness.org.