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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Are Cargill and Tyson responsible corporations and Foster Farms not so much?

Sure seems that way.

The above and below are slightly different questions than the one I posed the other day: Why did Tyson Recall, but Foster Farms Not? So, here they are:

1. Why has Cargill and Tyson collectively recalled millions of pounds of its products after customers were sickened and Foster Farms recalls nothing after 550 sickened in two outbreaks?

2. Why has no reporter asked that question of three of the largest poultry producers in the world and the government agency, FSIS, which oversees them?

What is FSIS’s role in all of this? Given that FSIS’s Mission Statement, you would think a bit more activist role would be warranted? Here is the Statement:

The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is the public health agency in the U.S. Department of Agriculture responsible for ensuring that the nation’s commercial supply of meat, poultry, and egg products is safe, wholesome, and correctly labeled and packaged.

OK, lets go over some background: FSIS does not have authority to recall. Unlike the FDA under the Food Safety Modernization Act, FSIS cannot order a recall it can only suggest one. In can, and has done on rare occasions – like Foster Farms cockroach problem – pull FSIS inspectors which stops production by removing the USDA mark of inspection.

According to the FSIS a food recall is a voluntary action by a manufacturer or distributor to protect the public from products that may cause health problems or possible death. A recall is intended to remove food products from commerce when there is reason to believe the products may be adulterated or misbranded. The most serious type of a recall, a Class I recall, involves a health hazard situation in which there is a reasonable probability that eating the food will cause health problems or death.

The definition for “adulterated” is found in 9 CFR 301.2. Adulterated shall apply to any carcass, part thereof, meat or meat food product under one or more circumstances (for example: if it contains poisonous substances, pesticides, or chemicals; or if it has been prepared under insanitary conditions). And, remember, FSIS does not consider Salmonella an adulterant. For a more detailed look at the problem this has created for FSIS, the meat industry and consumers, see, FSIS’s and Foster Farms’ Reason for NOT Recalling Salmonella Chicken: “Shit Happens!”

FSIS is frightened, err, chicken, to pull inspectors for Salmonella contamination or Salmonella illnesses because its inspectors have been ordered back in on at least one occasion of note. See, Butz, Supreme Beef and FSIS’s Salmonella Policy – A Bit(e) of History.

However, FSIS fear aside, again, why has Cargil and Tyson collectively recalled millions of pounds of its products after their customers were sickened and Foster Farms recalls nothing after 550 sickened in two outbreaks?

2014 Tyson Salmonella Heidelberg Outbreak AND Recall:

The FSIS was notified of a Salmonella Heidelberg cluster of illnesses on Dec. 12, 2013. Working in conjunction with the Tennessee Department of Health (TDH), FSIS determined that there is a link between the mechanically separated chicken products from Tyson Foods and the illness cluster in a Tennessee correctional facility. Based on epidemiological and traceback investigations, seven case-patients at the facility have been identified with illnesses, with two resulting in hospitalization. Illness onset dates range from Nov. 29, 2013 to Dec. 5, 2013. Tyson Foods, Inc. recalled approximately 33,840 pounds of mechanically separated chicken products.

2013 Foster Farms Salmonella Heidelberg Outbreaks with NO Recalls:

Outbreak No. 1: In July 2013 a total of 134 persons infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Heidelberg were reported from 13 states. Collaborative investigative efforts of local, state, and federal public health and regulatory agencies indicated that Foster Farms brand chicken was the most likely source of this outbreak.

Testing conducted by the Washington State Public Health Laboratories identified the outbreak strain of Salmonella Heidelberg in four intact samples of chicken collected from three ill persons’ homes in Washington, which were traced back to two Foster Farms slaughter establishments.

Outbreak No 2: In December 2013 a total of 416 persons infected with seven outbreak strains of Salmonella Heidelberg have been reported from 23 states and Puerto Rico.

Epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback investigations conducted by local, state, and federal officials indicate that consumption of Foster Farms brand chicken is the likely source of this outbreak of Salmonella Heidelberg infections. On October 7, 2013, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) issued a Public Health Alert due to concerns that illness caused by Salmonella Heidelberg is associated with chicken products produced by Foster Farms at three facilities in California. FSIS did issue a public health alert.

I did a little searching on www.outbreakdatabase.com and found more that a few example of meat recalls – chicken and beef – due to Salmonella contamination.

Recalls and Outbreaks by Cargill or one of its companies:

Salmonella Enteriditis Due to Contaminated Cargill Ground Beef 2012 40 sick – On July 22, 2012 Cargill Meat Solutions announced a recall of 29,339 pounds of fresh ground beef products due to possible contamination with Salmonella Enteriditis.

Hannaford Hamburger Ground Beef 2011 20 sick – On December 16, Hannaford, a Scarborough, Maine-based grocery chain, recalled fresh ground beef products that may have been contaminated with a strain of Salmonella Typhimurium.

Cargill Meat Solutions Ground Turkey 2011 136 sick – 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 associated with the use and the consumption of ground turkey.

Beef Packers, Inc., Cargill, Ground Beef 2009 2 sick – 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.

Beef Packers, Inc., Cargill, Ground Beef 2009 68 sick – 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.

Emmpak/Cargill Ground Beef 2002 47 sick – In early 2002, isolates of Salmonella Newport in New York State were found to be resistant to more than nine antibiotics and had a decreased susceptibility to the antibiotic, ceftriaxone.

It cannot be the numbers of sickened.  Frankly, Foster Farms in two outbreaks sickened more than Cargill and Tyson did in seven.

Would someone please ask the questions?