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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

The Science of E. coli in Beef, that is “Political Science”

A friend just sent me a link to Omaha Action 3 News – “Recall Ridden Beef Plant Stays Open: Why?”
Good question and I love the first line – “Another day, another recall from one specific South Omaha meat packing plant.”

Here is the fun part:

An Action 3 News investigation has found ties between the South Omaha plant and Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson. According to federal election records, two years ago, Senator Nelson’s re-election campaign received contributions from two top officials of Nebraska Beef.  In 2006 William Lamson, the lawyer for the company, gave Nelson 2 thousand dollars. Lamson is also Nelson’s former law partner. The President of Nebraska Beef has also contributed to Nelson. In 2006 William Hughes wrote Nelson three checks. The first was for $2,000. The second: $2,100. The third: $10,300 thousand.  A grand total of $14,400.

One other note, according to the Washington Post, in 1998 when Nelson was Governor, the State of Nebraska gave Nebraska Beef seven and a half million dollars in tax credits. Nelson was a member of the three man board that okayed those tax breaks.

As I always say, “money talks and E. coli walks.”  Or, is it ‘eat E. coli and die?" Or simply just "eat E. coli!" Or, in Nebraska Beef’s case, they are "in a lot of E. coli."  They should really "get their E. coli together."  Why, because, "they should give an E. coli."

I find it amazing how many people in and out of the beef industry have been helpful – sending me tips and documents – especially inspection reports on Nebraska Beef Ltd.  I also got a few emails today that you can find below:

Email 1:

I lived near the plant for years and drove by the facility day and night. I am not sure exactly where the Nebraska Beef slaughtering plant is located, but I was told that they are next to Darling International on Dahlman Avenue which is a major street that area resident’s use to cross over the interstate.

Darling International renders cattle parts for pet food. The stench coming out of that plant is horrendous. Most of the time they do not use the chemical buffers required to neutralize the stench that billows out of the chimneys, even though by law they are required to.

There is nothing worse than sleeping with your windows open on a cool spring evening and being woken up in the middle of the night, physically ill from the overpowering stench in the air. I called the city several times and complained and it would get better for a few weeks, then it was back again.

Many times I drove over rotted cattle hoofs which had apparently dropped from trucks onto Dahlman Avenue. Also I have seen sickly, filthy cattle, barely able to stand, brought in there on trucks that were nearly covered with runny manure. I have seen lots of cattle trucks, but never any as filthy as these were. Only between 1 to about 3 head at a time were brought in.  I am wondering what these cattle were used for as I just found out that Darling International does no slaughtering. Is this cattle for Nebraska Beef?

This entire area and these businesses need to be thoroughly investigated.

Email 2:

I worked in the shipping department of Nebraska Beef Ltd. from November, 2000 to August, 2002.  My job duties entailed calling drivers into dock doors so their trucks could be loaded, printing up pull sheets for the trailers and printing shipping bills of lading for the drivers once the loads were filled.  We also filled storage trailers, these were then shipped to a cold storage facility nearby that we used to freeze and store beef, Quality Storage.  Space was always at a premium so normally once a storage trailer was filled a manifest was printed and given to the shag drivers to take to Quality so the trailer could be off-loaded and brought back to our dock when empty to begin the process all over again.  It was very odd for a storage trailer that was bound for Quality Storage to sit for longer than a couple of hours.

Around May or June of 2002, I became suspicious of storage trailers that instead of being off-loaded at Quality after being filled, were instead sitting at our drop lot for days before finally being sent to
be emptied.  One day when my shift was finished, around 4:00 in the afternoon, I stopped at the drop lot to give some paperwork to one of the shag drivers.  At this time I noticed two Vice Presidents of
Nebraska Beef, Shawn from All American Meats, and Irv?  (Sorry, it has been a while and I am having trouble remembering names but the details are still very clear.) getting into the smaller reefer truck, we called the Bone Truck and leaving the drop lot.  I followed them onto the Interstate and into North Omaha. During this time, I called into the shipping office to speak to one of the other clerks to inform her of what I was doing, and to ask her if she knew where we could be going.  I described the exit and the street location of the building that I had seen them pull in to.  She informed me that this was the “Bone Plant”, the Bone Plant was where loads of bones were taken to be smoked, cut, and packaged for dog treats.

I believe that Nebraska Beef senior officials were taking “no roll” (non-inspected) cuts of beef and opening the packaging, stamping the meat as inspected, resealing the meat into Cryo-Vac bags,
then once a trailer load of beef was complete, they sent it to the storage facility to be sold to customers as prime and choice cuts of meat. This is why a trailer would sit for days at the drop lot, they would take what ever the small reefer truck could haul and repackage the meat at the bone plant after those employees had left for the day and then bring those meats back to another reefer trailer, once a load had been repacked then the trailer would be taken to Quality Storage to be off-loaded.

The next morning I went into work at my normal time of 5:00 a.m.  I opened up the shipping office every day and was usually alone for the first half hour or so.  I made copies of all the manifests for the storage trailers we had at the drop lot and recent loads that had been taken to the storage facility.  I called the head USDA inspector of the plant unfortunately, I cannot remember his name.  I gave him the documents that I had copied and informed him of what I had observed as well as my suspicions.  He assured me that something would be done, I believe that some sort of investigation was launched but obviously nothing came of it.  I was later told that management was aware that I
had made copies of the documents and had went to the USDA, William Hughes, President of Nebraska Beef wanted to fire me but, since it was known that I was moving to Florida in August of that year they decided to leave me alone.

I do not have any copies of the documents, I gave them all to the USDA inspector, I am not sure what good if any this information does for you.  I believe that this is still going on at Nebraska Beef, especially with the cuts of meat involved in the latest recall.  If I would have known at the time, I would have kept the documents and went to other sources as well to try and stop what I suspected was going on.  Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or if I can be of help you in any way.  If you need documentation of my employment at Nebraska Beef, I can get copies of my W2’s for that time period.