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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Salmonella Newport Recalled Safeway Hamburger sickens 38 in Arizona, California, Idaho and Nevada

According to the CDC, An estimated 1.4 million cases of Salmonellosis occur annually in the United States. Salmonella Newport is the third most common Salmonella serotype in the United States. During 1997–2001, the number of laboratory-confirmed Salmonella Newport infections reported to CDC increased from 1,584 (5%) of 34,608 reported Salmonella infections to 3,152 (10%) of 31,607 (CDC, unpublished data, 2002). The increasing number of Salmonella Newport infections in the United States appears to be associated with the emergence and rapid dissemination of multidrug-resistant strains of Salmonella Newport.  The title to my post should be – Salmonella Newport Strikes again.  Not to be confused with Newport Beach.

FSIS ALERT: FSIS Issues Public Health Alert for Ground Beef Products Due To Possible Salmonella Contamination

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) issued a public health alert due to illnesses from Salmonella Newport associated with fresh ground beef products contaminated with multi-drug resistant Salmonella that was ground and sold at Safeway supermarkets in Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada and New Mexico between Sept. 19 and Nov. 5, 2007.  The alert was initiated after epidemiological investigations conducted by the California Department of Public Health, Arizona Department of Health Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, determined that there is an association between the fresh ground beef products and 38 illnesses reported in Arizona (16), California (18), Idaho (1) and Nevada (3).

In the last few years we have done at least three Salmonella Newport cases – one involving KFC, one involving the Tennessee Taco Company and one also involving hamburger purchased at Wegman’s reported by the CDC as an Outbreak of Multidrug-Resistant Salmonella Newport — United States, January–April 2002:  The outbreak involved 47 persons in five states: New York (34 cases), Michigan (five), Pennsylvania (four), Ohio (two), and Connecticut (two).  What is interesting about Salmonella Newport is its prevalence in "cull cattle" that is used in hamburger production.  We did sue Safeway in 2004 in a Oregon Salmonella case.   From the Salmonella Disease Diagnostic Laboratory:

The National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) listed Salmonella Newport as one of the top ten most frequently identified Salmonella serotypes from U.S. cattle from July 1998 through June 1999. Nontyphoidal salmonellosis is an infection estimated to cause over 1 million cases of illness and 500 deaths in humans annually in the United States. Cull (market) dairy cows account for a large amount of beef, especially ground beef. Of 58 serotypes isolated by culture from culled dairy cows in five regional market cow establishments in the U.S., Salmonella Newport was among the 30 most prevalent serotypes.

According to a company press release – Safeway Inc is warning consumers that some of their ground beef may be contaminated with Salmonella bacteria.  The ground beef in question would have entered the supply chain between September 19 and November 5. The products were sold in five western states – Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada and New Mexico.  Officials with the company stress the fact that the Salmonella scare is confined to frozen ground beef products.  The company states that they have received no news of anybody becoming sick from eating their ground beef (what is the disconnect between the government and Safeway), but are urging consumers who may have bought it between the effected dates to throw it away – Hmmmm, I would advise to not eat it and contact you local or state health officials.  Also see this interesting video from YouTube:
I found this quote on a progressive website"There is no word yet from Safeway headquarters on whether the grocery store chain will change its name to something more appropriate."


  • Bill Derer

    I have been a quality manager, food safety auditor, owner and plant manager where meat products as well as fruits and veggies were produced. On active duty I purchased food globally here and in other countries. On most if not all products there are cooking and handling instructions. If a customer does not follow the cooking instructions that indicate a temperature of 160 degrees internal temp why is the processor held accountable for the miss handling of the product? If a lable on a product states’ product is potentionally hazardous to your health and must be cooked to an internal temp of 160 degrees’ and is not followed why do we in the industry take the hit? If a customer does not store a product appropriately before or after cooking and a pathogen develops why is the manufacturer held accountable?
    In 30 plus years in the food industry both in manufacturing and as an auditor I can say many problems that affect the consumer have come from poor handling and cooking by the customer. The industry is not totally without blame but the recalls would be dimminished if people would follow cooking and handling procedures.

  • KILL THE E. COLI, NOT THE COOK (or their kids)
    By William D. Marler
    Dozens of Americans poisoned by this summer’s nationwide E. coli outbreak were barely home from the local hospital before there were murmurings afoot: “If only they had cooked their hamburger properly.”
    “It is not the failure of the meat industry,” reads one e-mail that crossed my desk recently. “It is the fault of the parent who handled and cooked the hamburger that was fed to the child.”
    You hear it from meat industry. You hear it from the grocery stores. You even hear it from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is supposed to ensure that food is safe before it reaches the supermarket.
    Or, rather, hog unwashed.
    As a lawyer who has spent 10 years fighting for compensation for victims of food-borne poisons, I have learned a few things about E. coli.
    Remember, the E. coli that sickened these people nationwide comes from one place – cow poop. Yes, that is what was in the hamburger that these families cooked. How many of us know that? How many of us even want to know that?
    Yes, thorough cooking will kill E. coli that finds its way into ground beef. But the smarter attack is to prevent contamination in the first place. Processors need to clean up their act, and the federal government has to inspect meat and quickly clamp down when contamination takes place. Large purchasers of hamburger (fast food industry, government) need to refuse to buy from processors unless they have the highest food safety standards.
    Most Americans believe that the USDA already does this. At least they believed so until this summer, when the agency was thoroughly embarrassed by a nationwide outbreak of E. coli traced to meat that had its stamp of approval.
    The meat industry also must shoulder a large part of the blame. The ConAgra plant in Colorado that produced the E. coli contaminated product had positive E. coli tests for over a month, and kept on producing. I do not know about you, but if I made a mistake every day for a month, I think I would try something different.
    This summer’s victims, most them small children, and their parents, made the mistake of taking that USDA stamp seriously. And they paid heavily for that error. At least 10 of the victims, mostly youngsters, ended up in hospitals. Some spent days hooked up to kidney dialysis machines after their kidneys failed. Some face long-term risks of kidney failure and related consequences. It appears that there may be an Ohio death linked to this outbreak as well.
    The Center for Disease Control estimates that 76 million Americans get sick each year from food-borne illnesses. Fortunately, most of those illnesses are relatively minor, in part due to the miracles of the human immune system. But some get terribly sick (estimated 350,000 hospitalized). Some of them die (estimated 5,000). And they are mostly innocent kids and older people, whose immune systems are more vulnerable to attack.
    Yet Americans maintain extraordinary faith (I say misplaced) in their nation’s food supply. According to a study by the Partnership for Food Safety Education, fewer than half of Americans know that fresh fruits and vegetables can contain harmful bacteria. Only 25 percent believe that eggs and dairy products can be contaminated. Most consumers believe that food pathogens can be seen or smelled – they can not. Only 25 percent of consumers know that cooking temperatures are critical to food safety. And even fewer know that food should be refrigerated promptly after cooking.
    Consumers are being blamed, but most lack the knowledge or tools to properly protect themselves and their children. The FDA has stated that “unlike other pathogens, E. coli O157:H7 has no margin for error. It takes only a microscopic amount to cause serious illness or even death.” Over the last few years our Government and the Meat Industry have repeatedly told us to cook hamburger until there is no pink. Yet, recent university and USDA studies show meat can turn brown before it is actually “done.” Now the consumer is urged to use a thermometer to test the internal temperature of the meat.
    Also, who notices the little labels on meat that you buy in the store? The ones that tell you to cook the meat to 160 degrees – of course they also say USDA inspected too. The labels do not say “THE USDA INSPECTION MEANS NOTHING. THIS PRODUCT MAY CONTAIN A PATHOGENIC BACTERIA THAT CAN SEVERELY SICKEN OR KILL YOU AND/OR YOUR CHILD. HANDLE THIS PRODUCT WITH EXTREME CARE.” One wonders why the meat industry does not want a label like that on your pound of hamburger. It knows that the label is truthful. Do you think it might be concerned that Moms and Dads would stop buying it?
    Most of these people sickened in this outbreak had never heard of E. coli, but there were exceptions. One victim’s father is a professional restaurant inspector, and he was positive he cooked the meat thoroughly for his son. Another is a former police detective, who was equally sure she cooked the meat. Still another was a hardworking mom, whose “crime” it was to make a pot of spaghetti sauce for her son’s Little League team.
    Blaming consumers for undercooking their kids’ hamburger does a terrible disservice to hardworking parents already coping with sickened children.
    Americans have a right to a nontoxic food supply. We can’t afford to delegate food safety to harried moms and dads taking their kids out for hamburgers or to teenagers working in a fast food joint. The industry that makes billions selling us meat can and must step up to the task of cleaning up its own act. And the federal government, which promises to inspect meat, must deliver on that promise.