Sunday, August 10, 2008

Beef Recalled Due to E. coli

Although this is the second beef recall for Nebraska Beef Ltd. in less than a month, I haven't heard much about it in the news.

Federal authorities last month assured consumers that a meat plant linked to nearly 50 illnesses caused by tainted ground beef had made enough changes after a recall to ensure that its products were safe. Less than a month later, the same processor has recalled 1.2 million pounds of other beef products that might have sickened more than 30 people.

According to the story, that company slaughters 2,000 cows each day, and E. coli, a bacteria found in the intestines of animals, sickens 73,000 Americans each year.

Edited to add: Erik Marcus of has a good post about this issue, with a link to a Page 1 story in The Washington Post.

The Post story tells us that this most recent recall "is not related to the recent spate of E. coli illnesses among Boy Scouts at a gathering in Goshen, Va." I hadn't heard about that incident, but nice to know.

The story also points out Nebraska Beef's penchant for suing instead of improving its facilities.

From September 2002 to February 2003, USDA shut down the plant three times for problems such as feces on carcasses, water dripping off pipes onto meat, paint peeling onto equipment and plugged-up meat wash sinks, according to agency records.

After the third suspension, Nebraska Beef took USDA to court, arguing that another shutdown would put the company out of business. A judge agreed and temporarily blocked the department. The USDA and the company then settled out of court and inspections resumed. However, when federal meat inspectors found more violations, Nebraska Beef sued the department and the inspectors individually, accusing them of bias. The suit was later dismissed.

And this in 2006:

Minnesota health officials blamed Nebraska Beef for sickening 17 people who ate meatballs at a church potluck in rural Minnesota. Several victims filed lawsuits against Nebraska Beef, including the family of a woman who died. The company last fall sued the church, arguing that the volunteer cooks did not cook the meatballs properly.

Finally, if you thought E. coli was bad, take a look at this:

In 2004 and early 2005, Nebraska Beef ran afoul of new regulations aimed at keeping animal parts that may be infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease, out of the meat supply. Meat processors are required to remove certain high-risk parts, such as brains and spinal cords. Between July 2004 and February 2005, federal meat inspectors wrote up Nebraska Beef at least five times for not removing spinal cords and heads.

(Photo is of an unidentified slaughterhouse.)

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