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USDA Expands Ban On E. Coli Tainted Meat

WASHINGTON D.C. (CBS4) – In an effort to prevent future outbreaks of potentially deadly bacteria the U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced new rules which will ban the sale of ground meat containing six additional strains of E. coli.

In the mid-1990s, the federal government banned the sale of meat containing the most common strain E. coli (E. coli O157:H7) after four people died from eating tainted meat.

Beginning in March 2012, meat found containing E. coli serogroups O26, O103, O45, O111, O121 and O145 will also be banned from sale.

Federal regulators say extending the ban will protect the food supply, but the meat industry said the change is not necessary.

"The Obama Administration is committed to protecting our food supply and preventing illnesses before they happen," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a statement. "Too often, we are caught reacting to a problem instead of preventing it. This new policy will help stop problems before they start."

The U.S.D.A said the new rules are an important part of the government-wide commitment to dealing with emerging microbial threats. Through the President's Food Safety Working Group, USDA and its federal partners have been working on a new, public health-focused approach to food safety based on the principles of prevention, strengthening surveillance and enforcement, and improving response.

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