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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Cargill’s Salmonella Heidelberg Ground Turkey Recall Tops All Class I Recalls on Record

USDA/FSIS defines a Class I Recall as:

This is a health hazard situation where there is a reasonable probability that the use of the product will cause serious, adverse health consequences or death.

Screen Shot 2011-08-04 at 8.31.22 PM.pngNo kidding! Here are the dirty half dozen of Class I Recalls since I started tracking them:

Number 1According to FSIS, on August 3, 2011 Cargill Meat Solutions Corporation recalled approximately 36,000,000 pounds of ground turkey products that may be contaminated with a multi-drug resistant strain of Salmonella Heidelberg. Cultures of four ground turkey samples purchased from four retail locations between March 7 and June 27, 2011, yielded Salmonella Heidelberg with the outbreak strain. PFGE patterns from these Salmonella that matched the outbreak strain were added to the PulseNet database between April 11 and July 12; approximately a month after each sample was collected. According to CDC, a total of 78 persons infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Heidelberg have been reported from 26 states between March 1 and August 3, 2011. The number of ill persons identified in each state is as follows: AL (1), AZ (2), CA (6), GA (2), IA (1), IL (7), IN (1), KY (2), LA (1), MA (1), MI (10), MN (1), MO (2), MS (1), NC (1), NE (2), NV (1), NY (2), OH (10), OK (1), OR (1), PA (5), SD (3), TN (2), TX (9), and WI (3). There has been one death. PulseNet first received reports of a small number of cases with the outbreak strain beginning in March 2011, and reported cases increased in mid-May and late June. Illnesses that occurred after July 8, 2011 may not yet be counted.

Number 2 According to FSIS, on December 22, 2000 Bil Mar Foods, owned by Sara Lee recalled 35,000,000 pounds of specific production lots of hot dogs and deli meats that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, serotype 4b. CDC later isolated the outbreak strain of Listeria monocytogenes from an opened and a previously unopened package of hot dogs manufactured at the company’s plant in Zeeland, Michigan. According to the CDC, 100 illnesses caused by a rare strain of the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes, serotype 4b; have been reported to CDC by 22 states. Those states reporting cases include: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, West Virginia. A total of 21 deaths have been reported, including 15 adults and 6 miscarriages/stillbirths. Reported illness onset dates were during August 2, 1998-February 8, 1999. 

Number 3 According to FSIS, on October 12, 2002 Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation, doing business as Wampler Foods Inc., recalled approximately 27,400,000 pounds of fresh and frozen ready-to-eat turkey and chicken products that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. According to the CDC, 46 ill persons infected with the outbreak strain of Listeria have been detected since mid-July; most were hospitalized, seven have died, and three pregnant women have had miscarriages or stillbirths. The affected patients live in 8 states: Pennsylvania (14 cases), New York (11 cases in New York City, 7 in other locations), New Jersey (5 cases), Delaware (4 cases), Maryland (2 cases), Connecticut (1 case), Michigan (1 case), and Massachusetts (1 case). The most recent patient became ill on September 30, 2002

Number 4 According to FSIS, on August 12, 1997 the Hudson Foods Company recalled approximately 25,000,000 pounds of frozen ground beef patties distributed nationwide, because the product may be contaminated with Escherichia coli O157:H7 bacteria. According to the CDC, on August 7, 1997, CDPHE’s state public health laboratory reported that 15 (56%) of 27 E. coli O157:H7 isolates submitted for routine molecular subtyping since June 1 were characterized by highly related pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) patterns; the PFGE patterns of 13 (87%) of 15 isolates were indistinguishable (outbreak strain). The patterns of the remaining two isolates were indistinguishable from each other and differed from the outbreak strain by only one band. These isolates were cultured from stool specimens obtained from 15 patients who had onsets of illness during June 14-July 14. Hudson Foods beef burgers collected from the freezers of two of the 15 patients bore the identical lot number (156A7); both yielded E. coli O157:H7 when cultured at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Food Safety and Inspection Service Laboratory in Athens, Georgia. The PFGE pattern from one isolate cultured from ground beef was indistinguishable from the outbreak strain. Onsets of illness were from June 14-July 14, 1997.

Number 5 According to FSIS, on September 29, 2007 Topps Meat Company, LLC, recalled 21,700,000 pounds of frozen ground beef products because they may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7. According to the CDC, 40 cases of E. coli O157:H7 infection have been identified with PFGE patterns that match at least one of the patterns of E. coli strains found in Topp’s brand frozen ground beef patties. Ill persons reside in 8 states [Connecticut (2), Florida (1), Indiana (1), Maine (1), New Jersey (9), New York (13), Ohio (1), and Pennsylvania (12). The first reported illness began on July 5, 2007, and the last began on September 24, 2007.

Number 6 According to FSIS, on July 19, 2002 ConAgra Beef Company recalled approximately 19 million pounds of beef trim and fresh and frozen ground beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7. According to the CDC, during July 2002, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) identified an outbreak of Escherichia coli O157:H7 infections among Colorado residents. Epidemiologic and laboratory investigation that has linked 28 illnesses in Colorado and six other states to eating contaminated ground beef products recalled by ConAgra Beef Company on June 30, 2002. Seven patients were hospitalized; five developed hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS) and one died. E. coli O157:H7 was cultured from an opened package of ground beef collected from a patient’s home. On the basis of epidemiologic data and molecular subtyping, eight additional E. coli O157:H7 cases related to the Colorado cluster have been identified in six states (California, Iowa, Michigan, South Dakota, Washington, Ohio and Wyoming). The dates of onset ranged from June 17 to 27, 2002.

Most companies want to be No. 1.  I bet Cargill wishes it was not.

A larger recall has been a Class II (This is a health hazard situation where there is a remote probability of adverse health consequences from the use of the product) – February 17, 2008 – Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Co., a Chino, Calif., establishment, is voluntarily recalling approximately 143,383,823 pounds of raw and frozen beef products that FSIS has determined to be unfit for human food because the cattle did not receive complete and proper inspection.

Also, on January 28, 1999 FSIS announced that Thorn Apple Valley, a Forrest City, Arkansas meat processing plant, recalled (Class I) about 35,000,000 pounds of meat, produced from July 1998 to December 1998. Products were distributed nationwide and were shipped to foreign countries including Russia and South Korea. The recall was prompted by a finding of Listeria monocytogenes. No illnesses were reported.

  • LR

    I know this is devastating to those who have come in direct contact with the tainted meat–but all I can keep thinking about is the turkeys who were killed to give us food…..and now they aren’t even going to be food–their lives were wasted.

    At a time when so many people are scraping around for their next meal, the notion that so much food is going to be thrown away when the problem could have been prevented is an insult beyond any comparison.

    It’s time for some serious penalties—fines and jail time, to STOP food from becoming poison and to stop it from being wasted.

  • Sam

    The sorry truth is that, just like banks in this country, Cargill and their competitors are too big to fail. Though it sounds like a lot of product, it’s almost insignificant to a company the size of Cargill. Thier balance sheet will look a little less attractive for a quarter or two, then they will be back to record profits. Oh, and they won’t lose any money in the end, because their insurance company will foot the bill.
    And the cycle will repeat itself endlessly…

  • Hummingbird

    I feel like the government is behind a lot of this anyway and that is why it will continue to happen. But the people have to start standing up for the right to consume sustainable foods and stop having a “i don’t care attitude” until it hits their home! The food industry does so much to our food but half the people don’t care and if you tell them they get angry at you for telling them the truth, because they don’t want to change! So I pray that something gives, because my life, my children’s lives, my loved ones and friends and everyone else matters to me.