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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

E. coli, Nebraska Beef, the number 666 and Kroger Finally puts up Warning Signs – What is Whole Foods Doing?

A friend of mine, who is a bit too much on the religious side, noted that with the recent recall of 160,000 pounds of meat, Nebraska Beef has now recalled 6.66 million pounds on meat – the sign of the Beast – in the past month.  Well, Nebraska Beef did sue a church once – payback is a bitch. 

I’ll leave the numbers up to my friend and others to interpret.  One good thing is that Kroger finally says it has placed signs in its meat departments in the Cincinnati and Dayton areas with information on the latest Nebraska Beef recall – like, "do not eat our meat?"  What about other retailers?

By the way, does anyone know who is still buying Nebraska Beef?

It really is time for retailers, like Kroger and Whole Foods, to step up and be responsible for what they purchase (and from whom) to grind and sell to the public.  Retailers need to have strong specifications – like "no cow shit on our meat" – a tough one?  Those specifications then need to be audited – hmm, so how many times did Kroger or Whole Foods visit Nebraska Beef?  Retailers also need to pay more for the meat – with no cow shit on it  – and stop squeezing suppliers like Nebraska Beef to the point where they throw food safety out the window.  Customers will pay more for meat with no cow shit on or in it – no parent should have to worry that the meat they are buying has E. coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter, Listeria, or other fecal bacteria or viruses contaminating it.

Kroger and Whole Foods, and other retailers who grind intact cuts of meat in stores, are clearly in my legal sights.  Not only because Nebraska Beef has limited insurance and assets, but also because these retailers are also manufacturers under the law and are therefore strictly liable for poisoning their customers and others as well.

  • Bill writes: “Retailers also need to pay more for the meat – with no cow shit on it – and stop squeezing suppliers like Nebraska Beef to the point where they throw food safety out the window.”
    Isn’t this a function of marketing boards? To maintain a floor on the price so that competitive forces don’t go through the floor, and throwing out safety, worker’s comp, environmental, and other public bad costs?
    Don’t know if you have looked at Canada, but the only time I have gotten ill by eating beef was a couple of weeks ago in Detroit.

  • pete

    If they pay more then the packers will just pocket more. Money drives that machine and always will; otherwise they and the USDA wouldn’t act the way they do.
    The only real solution is to buy your beef from local farmers you trust and processed at a local butcher shop. Even if something goes wrong it is impossible for the effect to rise into the millions.

  • Bea Elliott

    Pete is right….. If they pay more then the packers will just pocket more. It’s a killing business whether you’re a “guest” at the slaughterhouse or a worker. And nothing’s fair about any of it.
    However, the only real soulution – what millions of people are doing is going “veg”. Living heathier on a plant based diet, burdening the enviornment less, allowing these exploited employees to seek other work and thereby saving the needless butchering of innocent animals.
    For health & heart…. Go Vegan! http://www.goveg.com

  • I’m confused- you say Kroger and Whole Foods do their own grinding in their stores, buying whole cuts. Isn’t that practice preferable over grinding in these huge, nasty slaughterhouses? Also, doesn’t grinding at the store prevent the intermingling of trim, bone, etc. into the ground beef that slaughterhouses are notorious for?
    It is true that everybody is being squeezed, but I know from firsthand experience selling homegrown meats that even highly educated consumers balk at high prices. That is the core of the problem- consumers need to understand that in this day and age, they should probably eat less meat and pay considerably more for it.

  • Bix

    Edmund LaMacchia, Global VP of Procurement at Whole Foods, said: “this event did not occur because we were negligent or slow to react.”
    But they also claim (from their site) “inspection of each producer’s operations.”
    I’m having difficulty understanding how both of those can be true.

  • matt

    I too am confused by the “…other retailers who grind intact cuts of meat in stores…” bit.
    I understand Nebraska Beef may have limited assets, and that the act of grinding constitiutes ‘manufacturing’, but I have to think this has got to be safer than ground beef coming out of Nebraksa Beef’s operations.
    I want the retailers to demand accountability from their suppliers, and I’d like to see them doing the same kind of best practices that JITB put in place after you nearly sued them off the face of the earth, but I’d actually be very pleased to see more grinding done in-house than centralized.