Why US Would Be Screwed if E. Coli Hit Our Crops

Also, new details emerge about strain that 'glues' itself to intestines

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Jun 3, 2011 8:39 AM CDT

(Newser) – If the new E. coli strain rampaging through Europe ever found its way into US crops, Americans would be pretty screwed—because it would be totally legal to distribute the contaminated veggies. Farmers and processors aren’t required to test their produce for emerging pathogens like this one, the Washington Post explains. “It would represent a major disaster in terms of the US food industry and risk to humans,” says one former USDA official. “The regulatory framework is a couple steps behind.”

Scientists tell Reuters that this new E. coli strain is probably the most toxic to ever hit humans: It combines a highly poisonous toxin with a rare “glue” that makes it stick to intestines. The USDA says it’ll be reviewing its policies on emerging pathogens, but in the meantime the FDA is monitoring produce imported from infected countries. Russia yesterday went so far as to ban all produce from the European Union, CNN reports.

A man unloads crates of cucumbers near Malaga on June 3, 2011  after officials in Hamburg,  blamed Spanish cucumbers for the spread of the enterohaemorrhagic E. coli.
A man unloads crates of cucumbers near Malaga on June 3, 2011 after officials in Hamburg, blamed Spanish cucumbers for the spread of the enterohaemorrhagic E. coli.   (Getty Images)
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