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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

JBS Swift Beef Company Expands Recall of Beef Products Due To E. coli O157:H7 Contamination – 24 Illnesses in Multiple States Appear Linked.

Recall Release CLASS I RECALL
FSIS-RC-034-2009 HEALTH RISK: HIGH

Well, I was right to speculate a few days ago that the June 24 recall of JBS Swift meat might well be related to illnesses.  It seems like "E. coli O157:H7 Season is Nearly Upon Us – Will it be 2005 and 2006 or 2007 and 2008?"

FSIS just announced that JBS Swift Beef Company, a Greeley, Colorado is voluntarily expanding its June 24 recall to include approximately 380,000 pounds of assorted beef primal products that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.

Together with traceback information and laboratory data, the recall is being expanded as a result of FSIS’ cooperation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in an ongoing investigation into 24 illnesses in multiple states, of which at least 18 appear to be associated. This investigation prompted the company to re-examine the effectiveness of their food safety system for the April 21 production of beef primals, and they are conducting this recall out of an abundance of caution as the safety of the products produced on a portion of that day could not be assured.

The beef products were produced on April 21, 2009 and were distributed both nationally and internationally. A list of the products subject to the expanded recall attached.

Each box bears the establishment number "EST. 969" inside the USDA mark of inspection as well as the identifying package date of "042109" and a time stamp ranging from "0618" to "1130." However, these products were sent to establishments and retail stores nationwide for further processing and will likely not bear the establishment number "EST. 969" on products available for direct consumer purchase. Customers with concerns should contact their point of purchase.

The recalled products include intact cuts of beef, such as primals, sub-primals, or boxed beef typically used for steaks and roasts rather than ground beef. FSIS is aware that some of these products may have been further processed into ground products by other companies. The highest risk products for consumers are raw ground product, trim or other non-intact product made from the products subject to the recall.

The first recalled products were produced on April 21 and 22 and shipped to distributors and retailers in states including Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin.  It is unclear if the expanded recall of product includes other states.

  • John Munsell

    FSIS and JBS-Swift are way off base not only on this expanison of the recall, as well as on the initial, smaller recall. The initial recall was for Bottom Butt Ball Tips, which is an intact cut of meat (not ground up……YET). According to today’s agency press release, “The recalled products include intact cuts of beef, such as primals, sub-primals, or boxed beef typically used for steakd and roasts rather than ground beef”. End quote. These recalls are unjustified, opposed to sacred HACCP protocol, contrary to previous agency position statements on intact beef cuts, and blurrs the determination of which meat plant or plants are responsible for the presence of the E.coli. In the past, FSIS has acciduously concluded that intact cuts of meat (which are being recalled in this scenario) which are surface contaminated with E.coli are NOT considered to be adulterated. The agency’s rationale for this official position statement is that intact cuts of meat are NOT intended to be ground up. The entire industry has always produced substantial trim emanating from the further processing of these intact cuts, and made ground beef from the trimmings. Can you imagine buying a half of beef, only to be told by the meat plant that you won’t get any burger from it, because the intact cut of beef (the beef carcass) has been determined by FSIS that it was not intended for grinding! Furthermore, many plants purchase intact 2-piece boneless chucks and grind the entire intact cuts into burger. FSIS is not alone in its historical stance that intact cuts are NOT intended for grinding, because many large slaughter establishments include this statement on their invoices on which they ship boxed beef intact cuts into commerce: “NOT INTENDED FOR GRINDING”. Therefore, realizing that both FSIS and their closest ally (the big packers) have historically and consistently stated that intact beef cuts are “Not Intended for Grinding”, then all the establishments which purchased the meat involved in this recall which have ground any of the meat should be held liable for all sicknesses in the various states referred to in this expanded recall notice. If you think I am incorrect, please notice that in the past, FSIS has always held the downline destination further processing plants fully responsible to (a) purify incoming meat which has been previously contaminated with invisible pathogens, and (b) pressure its source slaughter providers to implement corrective actions to prevent future recurrences of producing contaminated meat. These small downstream further processing plants totally lack the power to force their source suppliers to clean up their act. And, with ever-decreasing numbers of source slaughter providers from which to purchase their meat, these small downline plants keep their mouths shut, realizing they will likely be blackballed by their source slaughter providers if they are stupid enough to attempt to demand their suppliers clean up their act. Prior to HACCP’s advent in 1998, FSIS had the authority to require the source slaughter providers to implement corrective actions to prevent recurrences. Admittedly, such enforcement actions against the large and powerful multinational plants involve delicately uncomfortable “negotiations”, and the big slaughter plants have political clout and the financial wherewithal to engage the agency in protracted litigation if the agency attempts to require these huge plants to change their ways. Well, HACCP has provided FSIS the perfect answer to circumvent such delicate scenarios: the downstream plants are now charged with placing pressure on the slaughter plants to implement sanitation changes. Well, good luck. The thousands of small destination facilities totally lack the power to force the large slaughter plants to do anything. Since pressure cannot be placed upon slaughter plants to change their kill floor dressing protocol, no corrective actions are being taken, and E.coli continues to be shipped into commerce bearing the official USDA Mark of Inspection, with tacit agency approval. This is why we continue to have outbreaks and recalls, consumers continue to get sick, FSIS continues to Destroy the Destination plants, while refusing to Force the Source plants to clean up their act. While I commend FSIS for suddenly developing the tenacity to “suggest” that the truly noncompliant plant in this incident to recall heretofore sacrosanct intact beef cuts, what will be official agency policy in future outbreaks and recalls? In the absence of official FSIS public announcements to inform the public of changes in agency policies, I assure you that this recall is an anomoly, a 1-time blip on the radar in which the agency holds the source originating slaughter plant accountable for INTRODUCING e.coli into the food chain. Granted, last year’s recall from Nebraska Beef also included a recall of intact beef cuts, but these two recalls of intact cuts represent a woefully small percentage of recalls. I guarantee you that FSIS will continue to place full liability on victimized downstream further processors in the future, and will NOT officially change its historical stance that all liability for meat laced with E.coli rests upon the further processing plants which somehow are responsible for introducing enteric pathogens into their meat. This is insane. I fail to comprehend how HACCP is being sold to us as based in “science”. In stark contrast, science is consistent, based upon a rock-solid foundation. Water was H2O yesterday, today, and always will be. FSIS’ stance on how to define “adulterated meat”, source of the pathogen, the sacredness of intact cuts, and who should be charged with implementing corrective actions continues to change. Yup, like water will be H4O tomorrow. Is Obama willing & capable of requiring FSIS to change its unjustified policies, and to commence Forcing the Source to change its faulty ways? I will provide you this answer: who contributes more to both parties, the huge multinational packers, or nincompoops like me who assert that changes are necessary? John Munsell