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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

USDA Fails – Miserably – To Protect Public from E. coli

Marler Clark has seen an increase in business recently, and in light of the current E. coli outbreak in Minnesota, I think that increase might be courtesy of the United States Department of Agriculture. This is the agency that is responsible for, among other things, testing ground beef to ensure that the consuming public has a product free from E. coli O157:H7. What the agency has done, however, is slowly but surely erode the very testing mechanisms and requirements that are our protection against this lethal foodborne bacterium.
The Minnesota Department of Health (MDOH), which was instrumental in detecting last fall’s large-scale outbreak involving Dole lettuce, recently reported that at least seventeen Longville-area people have been confirmed to be suffering from E. coli infections in the last six weeks. The illnesses were caused by E. coli-contaminated ground beef. One woman died as a result, and the MDOH suspects that the number of victims is likely more than thirty. Additionally, meat companies from Georgia, Maryland, Tennessee, and Virginia have all recalled E. coli-contaminated ground beef in the last month. To its credit, USDA testing was responsible for three of these recalls.
But with a bug as dangerous as E. coli O157:H7, the USDA cannot be satisfied with the occasional recall. It has both the technology and capability to do much more to prevent E. coli from entering our meat supply.


What may come as a shock to many readers is that the recent Minnesota outbreak could have been prevented. A Minnesota Department of Agriculture investigation has revealed that, prior to final grinding into ground beef, USDA testing proved that certain constituent parts of the meat in question was contaminated with E. coli O157:H7. Nonetheless, the USDA may not have see fit to preclude that plant’s production from the human food supply.
What we’re looking at here is USDA’s complete disregard for consumer well-being. I’m left thinking, how could the USDA allow meat that it knows is contaminated with a lethal bacterium reach consumers’ plates? I think I speak for the American public in saying that this is inexcusable.
USDA has done a good job of wasting public resources by not stopping this outbreak before it started. We see again that USDA is basically an extension of the meat industry. Testing as performed and overseen by the USDA is a sham.