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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

A History of Ground Beef and Turkey Meat and Salmonella Outbreaks and Recalls

ground-recall.jpgWe are in the middle of yet another Salmonella outbreak linked to Salmonella-tainted ground meat, so I thought it might be helpful to put in in context thanks to http://www.outbreakdatabase.com.  I am expecting that the producer or producers of the Salmonella Heildelberg – tainted turkey may well be named today.

Safeway Ground Beef 2007 – 43 Ill

Safeway markets in Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, and New Mexico sold contaminated ground beef. A rare, drug resistant, strain of Salmonella Newport was isolated from the ill. No recall was issued as the Food Safety and Inspection Service could not identify the specific “establishments, lots and products” that received the ground beef. An alert was issued, on December 21 that advised Safeway customers to refrain from eating ground beef that had been purchased between September 19 and November 5.

Beef Packers, Inc., Cargill, Ground Beef June, 2009 – 40 Ill

A Beef Packers, Inc. plant in California owned by Cargill, distributed approximately 830,000 pounds of ground beef that was likely contaminated with Salmonella Newport. The beef was shipped to distribution centers in Arizona, California, Colorado, and Utah where it was repackaged into consumer-sized packages and sold under different retail brand names. The contaminated beef contained a strain of Salmonella resistant to several commonly used antibiotics (called MDR-AmpC resistance). At least 40 people in nine states fell ill; at least 21 of the people lived in Colorado and five lived in California. Most people became ill during late June and early July. Most of the ill in Colorado had purchased the ground beef at Safeway grocery stores. Ground beef was likely sold through other retail outlets as well. Cargill is a privately held, multinational corporation whose business activities include production of crop nutrients, grain, livestock feed, agricultural commodities, and ingredients for processed foods.

King Soopers, Inc., Ground Beef 2009 – 14 Ill

King Soopers, Inc., a supermarket chain, recalled approximately 466,236 pounds of ground beef that was linked to an outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium DT 104 in the state of Colorado. The beef had been distributed in the states of Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. The recall involved tray packs and chubs. The ground beef was produced on various dates ranging from May 23 to June 13, 2009. The Salmonella was resistant to many the antibiotics.

Beef Packers, Inc., Cargill, Ground Beef November, 2009 – 2 Ill

In December, Beef Packers, Inc., owned by Cargill, recalled over 20,000 pounds of ground beef contaminated with a drug-resistant strain of Salmonella Newport. The company issued an earlier recall in August 2009, due to contamination of ground beef with the same strain of Salmonella Newport. This contaminated ground beef was produced in September and was distributed to Safeway grocery stores in Arizona and New Mexico. The Arizona Department of Health linked two illnesses to the ground beef.

Jenny-O-Turkey Burgers 2010 – 12 Ill

Jennie-O-Turkey Store, All Natural Lean White Meat Turkey Burgers were recalled on April 1, 2011, after an outbreak of Salmonella Hadar had been linked with the consumption of this product. The turkey burgers were sold exclusively in 4-pound cartons through Sam’s Club stores. Consumer turkey burger samples in two states were confirmed to be contaminated with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Hadar. The Salmonella Hadar is known to be resistant to several antibiotic drugs, including ampicillin, amoxicillin/clavulanate, cephalothin, and tetracycline. The Jenny-O Turkey Store is part of the Hormel Foods Company.

Ground Turkey 2011 – 76 Ill, 1 Death

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) issued a public health alert, on July 29, due to concerns about illnesses caused by Salmonella Heidelberg that may be associated with the use and the consumption of ground turkey. The alert was initiated after continuous medical reports, ongoing investigations and testing conducted by various departments of health across the nation determined that there was an association between consumption of ground turkey products and an estimated 77 illnesses reported in 26 states. The illnesses were linked through epidemiologic investigations and laboratory testing.

  • Minkpuppy

    Currently, FSIS is only collecting supplier source information prior to testing on ground beef being tested for E. coli 0157:H7. This is a fairly recent development. Common sense tells me that we should be collecting supplier sources info for all testing regardless of the organism.

  • John Munsell

    Minkpuppy, you are spot on! But FSIS officials disagree with you on this issue. At a December, 2002 congressional field hearing on this subject, the agency’s William Smith stated, and I quote, “Inspectors have more important things to do” than document the ORIGIN of meat being sampled at the time of sample collection.
    Every science class I took in high school & college stressed the need to immediately document every bit of data when conducting scientific experiments. FSIS microbial testing is indeed a scientific experiment, but the agency chooses to insulate the SOURCE from accountability, by intentional FSIS design, when it refuses to document ALL evidence at the time of sample collection. Science has improved since my collegiate years, apparently now requiring artificial restrictions against compiling ALL evidence. Ain’t science wonderful! Well, perhaps political science.
    As long as top FSIS officials share the same opinion as the agency’s William Smith, we will experience recurring recalls and ongoing outbreaks…….because prevention must primarily be conducted at the SOURCE, which the agency adroitly avoids……in the name of “science”.
    John Munsell

  • Minkpuppy

    John,
    I have more important things to do than document the origin of the meat used in ground products? What pray tell, would that be? Chasing paperwork?????? Working on the slaughter line because they won’t staff the line inspectors so we can’t do zero tolerance and HACCP checks? I could go on but I wouldn’t want to bore everyone.
    I see collecting supplier information as part of my job or at least it should be. William Smith is a classic example of DC being out of touch with the inspectors. They really need to learn to listen to us–we’re in the trenches everyday and we KNOW what’s really going on in the plants. The company policy isn’t always what happens at the plant. Not by a long shot.

  • John Munsell

    FSIS blithely ignores it when company policy isn’t always what happens at the plant. FSIS’ attitude is “Let HACCP work”. In other words, deregulation of the large source plants is best for public health imperatives. Under the HACCP Hoax, FSIS designed a way to semi-retire at the big plants, and enjoy the comfort emanating from relieving the agency from delicately uncomfortable enforcement actions against the big plants. FSIS is using HACCP as its Trojan Horse: the outside of the Horse is labeled “Safe Food”, but inside the Horse is the agency’s ultimate goal, which is deregulation.
    Up here in Montana, I’ve never seen FSIS employee morale so low, and I’ve been observing it since 1971. FSIS is chilling the free speech freedoms of its field force, mandating that they simply do what they’re told, and keep your mouths shut. The agency stifles any suggestions, because the FSIS bureaucrats have lots to hide, by intentional agency design.
    When this all goes public, the entity being exposed won’t be the industry, but the agency, which portrays itself as the consumers’ best friend. Yup, and I’m Darth Vader’s fairy godmother.
    John Munsell