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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

More Revelations on 2007 Topps Meat E. coli Outbreak

Crack Meat Guy Jeff Gold reported on “USDA papers: Burger recall followed riskier procedures.” I would urge readers to look this over – interesting story on the real lack of USDA and FSIS oversight on these plants and why we have seen an increase in E. coli O157:H7 illnesses since 2007. I’ll just leave you with a couple of highlights:

From FSIS’s perspective:

"Clearly, something was missed at Topps" when the company became "complacent," Kenneth Petersen, head of the national Office of Field Operations for the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, conceded in an interview…. In a separate interview, Petersen said Topps had decreased end-of-line testing for E. coli from monthly to three times a year. "Somewhere, I don’t know if lazy is the right word, but they got complacent," he said.

Here is the really interesting part:

At least three families have sued Topps, claiming relatives became ill from its hamburgers. With the company out of business, they are seeking shares of insurance payouts that could total $22 million.

"The problem with Topps is it seems they had really low, low frequency of testing their finished hamburger product," which saved money, said William D. Marler of Seattle, a lawyer for two of the families. "Their testing protocol really was designed never to find E. coli; never to slow the process down."

Marler examined the inspection documentation at the request of the AP and said many deficiencies should have been caught…. "This report clearly shows that their safety procedures and testing procedures were definitely below par and led to this outbreak and ultimately to their bankruptcy," he said. "My point is, these things are so obvious, where was the inspector in July and August 2007?"

And, FSIS’s response:

While acknowledging that inspections could have been better, the USDA’s Petersen said that after the Topps recalls, "we put in place some changes to make sure that doesn’t happen again."