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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Three people from Nevada contract Salmonella Newport from eating ground beef

Some people gamble in Reno, others eat hamburger.  Perhaps the odds of winning or loosing are about the same.  Steve Timko from the Reno Gazatte-Journal reported on the continuing problem of Salmonella-tainted burger (remember, Salmonella in hamburger is not considered an adulterant).  According to the Gazatte-Journal, three people in Nevada might have contracted a drug-resistant strain of Salmonella by eating ground beef from Safeway, health officials reported.  The three are among 38 nationwide who the U.S. Department of Agriculture said contracted a strain of salmonella called Newport in Nevada, California, Arizona and Idaho between Sept. 19 and Nov. 5. In Nevada, one person with Salmonella Newport lived in Washoe County, one in Douglas and a third in Clark County, said Dr. Ihsan Azzam, the Nevada state epidemiologist.

"Our findings do not show 100 percent positively that it is Safeway ground beef," Azzam said. "Our findings are suggesting a product from Safeway is a cause."  Azzam said one is a senior citizen, one an infant and the third a young person.

Safeway issued one of the most disingenuous statements Thursday noting the USDA did not issue a recall (But Safeway urges you to throw it away), and there’s no test that shows the ground beef was contaminated (Although their customers became ill).  Again, why do they think the public is so stupid?

Now talk about gambling odds, according to the USDA’s Economic Research Service, in 2004, the average American consumed 60.1 pounds of cattle meat, of which about 59% was hamburger.  Also, in 2004 there were about 275,000,000 Americans.  In the last statistic I could find, a 1987 study tested for the presence of E. coli O157:H7 in supermarket meats (mostly ground meats).  The bacteria was found in 3.7 percent of beef, 1.5 percent of pork, 1.5 percent of chicken and turkey, and 2.0 percent of lamb samples tested.  While 6.4 percent of ground-beef samples tested by the USDA harbored Salmonella in 1998, only 2.8 percent did in 2001.  So, what are your odds of eating contaminated hamburger?  Well, I’ll let you do the math and place your bets.

Here is a quote of mine form CFO Magazine A Better Burger Industry – Scared Straight. This interview was in May of this year before we really began to see the “uptick” in hamburger recalls and illnesses:

"Seattle attorney William Marler earns his living suing food producers and restaurants suspected of selling contaminated food. In 1995, he won a $15.6 million settlement on behalf of Brianne Kiner, who suffered severe E. coli–related health problems after eating an undercooked hamburger from a Jack in the Box restaurant. Lately, though, he’s not earning much money on the back of the burger trade, and for that he credits the meat-packing industry for embracing end-product testing of its products for pathogens, partly in response to customer demand."

"From 1993 to 2002, 95 percent of my revenues came from cases involving E. coli tied to hamburger," Marler says. "That has dried up to nearly zero since 2003. Once producers started testing and getting a lot of positives, they began looking at their procedures and processes to figure out how to eliminate the contamination. The fact that they were able to eliminate it to such a degree has put me out of the hamburger business, and I’m happy about that, candidly. I never thought I would say this, but I think the food industry across the board needs to take a really hard look at what the hamburger industry has done."

Well, I clearly was wrong.

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