It was a bit cold and rainy on Bainbridge Island today as I watched my eight-year-old daughter, Sydney’s, soccer game. You see at 50 I don’t feel old – my wife is younger and my three daughters are very young. So, I was a bit disturbed that the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) would send me a membership card in the mail today. As I cut the card into several dozen pieces and burned it in the fireplace, I smiled to myself and thought – well, at least I am not Cargill. I might be getting older, but at least I did not sicken four little kids in Minnesota over the last month and have to recall nearly 1 million pounds of meat even after it proclaimed in 1995 that the “End to E coli is found.”
Really, Cargill did. In an article in the New York Times, Cargill and Frigoscandia announced that they “had developed a method to eliminate virtually all disease-causing bacteria in beef, pork and poultry. The process was to use a blanket of steam to pasteurize the surface of carcasses and could be easily inserted into meat-processing lines, the two companies said. The main target of the new technology was E. coli O157: H7.” What the hell happened?
In the summer of 2000 Cargill meat was found to be the source of the Milwaukee Sizzler E. coli outbreak that sickened 62 people and killed one child. We represented many of the victims. In 1993 Cargill was also implicated in an E. coli outbreak in Oregon that sickened nearly 100. In both instances the contaminated beef originated at Cargill’s meat plant located in Fort Morgan, Colorado.
July 2001 – E. coli lawsuit filed against Cargill on behalf of injured child
We filed suit against Cargill on behalf of a young child who became seriously ill after eating a hamburger patty contaminated with E. coli. A month earlier, Cargill issued a voluntary recall of 190,811 pounds of ground beef and ground pork it manufactured at a Newnan-based meat packaging plant and then supplied to Kroger supermarkets in southeast Georgia. According to a Washington Post-Dateline NBC Report, an Excel plant located in Fort Morgan, Colorado, was cited 26 times from September 1999 to July 2000 for fecal contamination of meat. Also, according to a June 26, 2001 story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Excel’s parent company, Cargill, recalled 16.7 million pounds of cooked, ready-to-eat turkey and chicken products in December to safeguard against potentially fatal Listeria contamination.”
We filed another E. coli suit against Cargill. This time on behalf of several women who were sickened along with 57 others traced to Cargill’s Peck Meats Packing division in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. These illnesses led to a 400,000-pound ground beef recall on October 1. That recall was expanded to 2.8 million pounds on October 3. Cargill closed its Peck Meats plant on October 3, but issued a new recall of 568,000 pounds of fresh beef on October 10.