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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

American Foods Group Recalls Ground Beef Products due to E. Coli O157:H7 Contamination and Illnesses in Illinois

"We believe in caring for our customers and caring for our employees. That will not change."
                Tom Rosen, Co-Chairman of American Foods Group, LLC

Oh, Really?  I guess lightning can strike more than once in the same spot!



American Foods Group, LLC (AFG), a Green Bay, Wisconsin firm, is recalling approximately 95,927 pounds of various coarse and fine ground beef products because they are contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today. The ground beef products subject to recall were produced on Oct. 10, 2007, and were distributed to retail establishments and distributors in Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Virginia. The problem was discovered through an investigation into two illnesses that was initiated by the Illinois Department of Public Health.   That is how the USDA figures out outbreaks – send the contaminated meat into the market place and see if people get sick – the American pubic, canaries in the coal mine.  I wonder if AFG did any "test and hold?"

The FSIS web site also reflects that American Foods Group (AFG) is a processing establishment, and does not slaughter. The web site also shows that the establishment is part of a conglomerate which also owns Green Bay Dressed Beef, which has more than one establishment, one of which is Est # 410 in Green Bay, which does slaughter.  Green Bay Dressed Beef had a Mad Cow scare in August 2005.

Unfortunately for AFG’s customers this was not an isolated occurrence.  We have seen this all before.  In December 2000, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) issued a press release stating that 17 Minnesota citizens had been infected with the same strain of the E. coli O157:H7 bacteria during November 2000.  On December 4, FSIS, stated in a Class I alert that Green Bay Dressed Beef, the meat supplier doing business as AFG, was, at the suggestion of the FSIS, recalling 1.1 million pounds of contaminated ground beef.  One of the young children we represented developed Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS).

Also, In December 1998, another recall was issued for 1,000 pounds of beef manufactured by AFG and distributed to Cub Foods stores in the Chicago, Illinois area after random testing showed that meat in one of the stores was contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.  Again, in December 1999, a recall of ground beef was made after government inspectors found contamination at the AFG plant.  Yet another recall,  this time for over 500,000 pounds of ground beef manufactured by AFG, occurred in August 2001In that outbreak we represented five people.

Jennifer Smith Richards of the Columbus Dispatch weighed in on the recent AFG recall in an article “More beef might be tainted, states told.”  AFG’s shocking indifference is concerning:

"It’s something that, unfortunately, happens with a raw product like ground beef," said Jim Mulhern, a spokesman for American Foods Group. "It’s not 100 percent preventable….  One of the problems with these recalls is American Foods Group doesn’t know where it was eventually sold," Mulhern said.

One more "beef" of mine – It is an agreement between USDA and industry — USDA will not disclose the names of slaughter houses without a positive test “above the grinder” – which is why there is no mention of where the meat came from that was ground by AFG in this latest recall.  Also, on the "downside" of the grinder – on the retail side – there is also an agreement between USDA and industry to not disclose “proprietary information” – which includes where the contaminated meat was sold.  Health Departments have to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to not disclose that information to the public in order to get the information from USDA.  Welcome to my world — ever read Kafka?  I put some of my thought on this recall out in a press release.

The following products are subject to this most recent recall:

* Bulk weight packages of "BEEF, FINE GROUND 73/27." Each shipping label bears a product code of "65000."
* Bulk weight packages of "BEEF, FINE GROUND 75/25." Each shipping label bears a product code of "65800."
* Bulk weight packages of "BEEF SIRLOIN, FINE GROUND 90/10." Each shipping label bears a product code of "66000."
* Bulk weight packages of "BEEF, FINE GROUND 80/20." Each shipping label bears a product code of "66400."
* Bulk weight packages of "BEEF, FINE GROUND 75/25." Each shipping label bears a product code of "19900."
* Bulk weight packages of "BEEF, FINE GROUND 73/27." Each shipping label bears a product code of "20100."
* Bulk weight packages of "BEEF CHUCK, FINE GROUND 82/18." Each shipping label bears a product code of "20600."
* Bulk weight packages of "CHOP BEEF STEAK, FINE GRIND "86/14." Each shipping label bears a product code of "30000."
* Bulk weight packages of "BEEF SIRLOIN, FINE GROUND 92/08." Each shipping label bears a product code of "30400."
* Bulk weight packages of "BEEF ROUND, FINE GROUND 87/13." Each shipping label bears a product code of "30200."
* Bulk weight packages of "BEEF, FINE GROUND 80/20." Each shipping label bears a product code of "30700."
* Bulk weight packages of "BEEF CHUCK, FINE GROUND 82/18." Each shipping label bears a product code of "31400."
* Bulk weight packages of "BEEF, FINE GROUND 93/07." Each shipping label bears a product code of "31600."
* Bulk weight packages of "BEEF, FINE GROUND 73/27." Each shipping label bears a product code of "31700."
* Bulk weight packages of "BEEF MODIFIED, FINE GROUND 93/07." Each shipping label bears a product code of "31900."

  • John Munsell

    Please note: this email was sent to Dr. Richard Raymond, USDA Under Secretary in charge of Meat Inspection (FSIS), as well as to numerous other FSIS officials regarding this current recall, and how it may tie into previous Wisconsin recalls.
    From: “John Munsell”
    To: “John Munsell”
    Subject: Fw: Today’s recall # 054-2007
    Date: Sunday, November 25, 2007 6:22 PM
    Sent: Sunday, November 25, 2007 3:35 PM
    Subject: Re: Today’s recall # 054-2007
    > Dr. Raymond et al:
    >
    > My memory has been telling me that Green Bay Dressed Beef had been
    > involved in previous E.coli recalls, so I checked the agency’s recall
    > archive, only to discover that Green Bay Dressed Beef has been active in
    > E.coli musical chairs, more than once, in previous years. To wit:
    >
    > Dec 4, 2000: Recall # 074, 1.1 million lbs
    >
    > Aug 17, 2001: Recall # 046, 530,000 lbs
    >
    > Sept 17, 2004: Recall # 035, 59,000 lbs
    >
    > Admittedly, at this time (to my knowledge) the agency has not conducted a
    > traceback to the origin of the previously-contaminated meat which was
    > unwittingly purchased by American Foods Group. Whether the investigation
    > traces back to G.B Dressed Beef or not, it give us food for thought.
    >
    > We’ve all been wondering why 2007 has experienced such an uptick in E.coli
    > outbreaks and recalls. If we tie current events in with historical recall
    > data, hopefully the idea will eventually surface that until the slaughter
    > house origins of enteric bacteria are forced to implement corrective
    > actions, we can expect that recalls and outbreaks will become an
    > all-too-frequent fact of American life. The agency’s recent Notices which
    > further pressure downline processing plants to require even more documents
    > from their source slaughter suppliers merely continues this inevitable
    > delay in forcing the true source plants to clean up their act. “Improved”
    > purchasing specs at downline plants will NOT force slaughter plants to
    > implement corrective actions, nor will these specs decrease the flow of
    > contaminated meat into commerce.
    >
    > Bluntly put, the concentrated slaughter industry ignores demands/requests
    > from their downline customers, and increasingly delist such customers when
    > these further processing plants commence testing incoming intact meat.
    > The primary reason these grinding plants are testing incoming shipments
    > stems from FSIS pressure to do so to participate in “Best Practices”
    > protocol, and/or in response to unrealistic demands from EIAO’s and FSA’s.
    > And, when tests of incoming meat result in adverse lab positives, the
    > downline plant is frequently charged with having a “Failure in its HACCP
    > Plan”, simply because it allowed invisible pathogens into their
    > facilities.
    >
    > Corrective actions are direly needed in HACCP theory and FSIS enforcement
    > actions, both of which have insulated the large packers from
    > accountability while passing all liability to the downline further
    > processors. Simultaneously, the value of the official USDA Mark of
    > Inspection diminishes daily. When these victimized further processors
    > (which do not slaughter) merely further process meat (bearing the mark of
    > inspection) purchased from source slaughter plants, assessing liability at
    > the downline processor challenges the claim that HACCP is science based.
    >
    > Let’s objectively look at historical recall data from all of this century,
    > and determine where agency enforcement actions should go from here.
    >
    > If a surgeon removes someone’s big toe because the patient has a brain
    > tumor, effective corrective action is summarily circumvented. Well, FSIS
    > has been removing big toes since HACCP’s advent.
    >
    > John Munsell

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