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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

USDA/FSIS Timeline of Topps “Recall”

The below Timeline is directly from the transcript of the Press Conference held by the USDA/FSIS on October 4, 2007.

Some questions that need to be answered:

1.  When did Topps know that there was a possible E. coli O157:H7 illness tied to its product? Given that USDA/FSIS was testing Topps product by September 7, 2007, it seems evident that Topps knew of the problem at some point between August 31, 2007 and September 8, 2007. Once it knew, what did it do?

2.  Did Topps seek any advise from USDA/FSIS, or other sources, between August 31, 2007 and September 7, 2007 about commencing a recall?

3.  When did Topps and USDA/FSIS discuss the recall, and what advise to USDA/FSIS give Topps regarding the timing of the recall?

August 31, 2007 – Florida parent complaint of E. coli O157:H7 illness of daughter logged on USDA/FSIS website.

September 7, 2007 – USDA/FSIS has positive E. coli O157:H7 sample from opened box of hamburger from Florida parent’s freezer.

September 8, 2007 – USDA/FSIS received hamburger sample from Topps. Tests were negative.

September 14, 2007 – Confirmed stool sample from Florida daughter and from hamburger in Florida parent’s freezer are identical E. coli O157:H7 genetic matches.

September 20, 2007 – USDA/FSIS was informed of two additional E. coli O157:H7 illnesses from New York State.

September 22, 20007 – Confirmed E. coli O157:H7 stool sample from New York cases were found to be genetic matches to both hamburger in Florida parent’s freezer and the daughter.

September 24, 2007 – New York State Department of Health confirmed E. coli O157:H7 positive sample from “unopened” box of Topps product.

September 25, 2007 – Recall announced.

September 29, 2007 – Recall expanded.

October 4, 2007 – “Opened vs unopened box of meat rule” changed.

October 5, 2007 – CDC confirms 30 illnesses in 8 states.

For other stupid USDA/FSIS rules – see these posts where I wrote about the USDA/FSIS’s failure to inform the Minnesota Health Department where E. coli contamination came from and where USDA/FSIS embargoed E. coli contaminated trim, but allowed the intact meat that the trim was removed from to be shipped despite the fact that it knew the intact meat would be used for hamburger.  Post 1, 2, 3, 4.   Why do these people keep their jobs?

  • At the end of this entry you ask, probably not entirely rhetorically, √ɬ¢√¢¬Ç¬¨√Ö”Why do these people keep their jobs?√ɬ¢√¢¬Ç¬¨√جø¬Ω. As I’m sure you know, the complete answer is quite complex and might provide an interesting history lesson in government regulation to protect business and public health, two goals that are not always politically nor logically compatible.
    Some of the major factors include:
    As you also know, we’re using a 100 year old law; food production, distribution and consumption have changed dramatically and we need revamped if not new legislation.
    While FDA and FSIS try to perform as public health agencies, they are basically regulatory agencies whose lawyers [no offense meant and present company excepted] make sure they don’t exceed their authority to prevent them from getting sued (primarily by food producers; rarely by consumer interest groups but increasingly frequently by counsel representing victims).
    In my opinion, FSIS has a serious conflict of interest being in the Agriculture Department whose mission is to foster agriculture. This adds a lot of institutional and political inertia when FSIS tries to change things. That’s why I’m in favor of a single food agency with a single focus on public health.
    While food safety science isn√ɬ¢√¢¬Ç¬¨√¢¬Ñ¬¢t rocket science, there are a lot of unknowns because the data hasn√ɬ¢√¢¬Ç¬¨√¢¬Ñ¬¢t been collected yet. A decade ago, FSIS had a modest research program which was √ɬ¢√¢¬Ç¬¨√Ö”donated√ɬ¢√¢¬Ç¬¨√جø¬Ω to ARS which isn√ɬ¢√¢¬Ç¬¨√¢¬Ñ¬¢t really all that interested in carrying out the purportedly √ɬ¢√¢¬Ç¬¨√Ö”unsexy√ɬ¢√¢¬Ç¬¨√جø¬Ω research needed to answer simple questions like √ɬ¢√¢¬Ç¬¨√Ö”Could you ship samples (perhaps in broth) in heated boxes rather than cold boxes to that enrichment growth could start right away ?√ɬ¢√¢¬Ç¬¨√جø¬Ω so that by the time the sample got to the lab, it would be closer to completion.
    Don’t blame all the FSIS employees; they are only as good as their top management and the administration. We need to fix the system.
    Keep up the good fight.

  • mark

    did you just figure out the inact loophole?
    this is couresy of another law firm that represnts the slaugher industry. Amazing the fsis believes that intact cyovac meat trimming are not used for furher processing. check out nebrasks beef co. invoices read the disclaimer about intended use. this proves that the proccesors and retail outlets are vicims of circumsatance while you attack them and not once consider the sources materials that carry the marks of inspecion are the problem. the legal systems is good entertainment sometimes.

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