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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Costco, Eathbound Farms and Ready Pac Lead on non-O157:H7 E. coli Testing

Coral Beach of The Packer confirmed publicly what many knew for months – Costco continues to lead the way in food safety. According to The Packer, new pathogen testing requirements for produce companies supplying Costco Wholesale Corp. may be the first of their kind for a retailer, but Earthbound Farms and Ready Pac were already conducting the tests.

Screen Shot 2011-07-21 at 4.58.24 PM.pngCraig Wilson, Costco’s vice president of quality assurance and food safety, said July 18 that the company began requiring its produce suppliers to test finished products for the “Big 6” E. coli strains “a couple of months ago.” In addition, Costco is also requiring testing for E. coli O104:H4

“The tests don’t make the food safer, but they do tell us if the vendors’ food safety programs are working,” Wilson said.

Earthbound Farm, San Juan Bautista, Calif., began testing raw products in 2006 and finished products in 2007 in response to the E. coli outbreak in 2006. Consequently, the Costco requirement won’t add any costs or disrupt their supply chain, said Will Daniels, senior vice president of operations and organic integrity.

At Ready Pac Foods Inc. in Irwindale, Calif., tests for salmonella and various E. coli strains have been standard procedure for several years, said Brian Zomorodi, senior vice president of technology and quality. Both Earthbound Farm and Ready Pac work with IEH Laboratories & Consulting Group, Lake Forest Park, Wash., which has 76 labs across the country.

So, when are other major manufacturers and retailers going to step up and start testing for non-O157:H7 E. coli?  When is the government?

Also, I wonder if the lawsuits I have had against these three companies had anything to do with thier good behavior?

  • Minkpuppy

    I’m sure the lawsuits had everything to do with the good behavior.
    I’ve found that the quickest way to get some stubborn meat processors to abide by the regs is to tell them what could happen if they don’t. Lawsuits are their biggest fear–not food poisoning outbreaks from their products. When it’s explained to them that can avoid a lawsuit by complying, they fall all over themselves to do the right thing.
    Pretty damn sad.

  • Sam

    Perhaps someone out there could help us food industry types, and tell us who is currently offering non 0157:H7 testing services?

  • Sam, I know IEH Labs are doing it. You might also contact Craig Wilson at Costco and Will Daniels at Earthbound Farms.

  • hector chaparro

    And i wonder how much money went to the people affected and how much money went to the the lawyers like usuall.
    And im sorry but your lawsuits where not the ones that prompted the industry to do this sort of testing, the indusrty is being proactive.

  • Carrie W

    How does Costco ensure that their suppliers are actually conducting the testing before the products reach their store shelves? Is it known exactly what products are being tested?

  • Carlos Uro

    Sam you may also use the Process Control Testing that IEH has invented or manufactured
    He has sold this idea to several of the Big companies nobody knows what it is but they accept it, you can use this test insted of pathogen testing.
    So who knows

  • Sam

    Thanks Bill. I’m now in contact with IEH. I like the idea of expanded testing, but I need to know the cost. I’ll try and share what I discover. Fact is, if it adds cost that the customer is unwilling to bear, then it will be a hard sell to my employer.
    Carrie, Costco requires certificates of analysis, linked to each batch, with each shipment. And they have a very robust vendor auditing program.