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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

When is a Recall not a Recall? When you still can buy contaminated meat on your store shelves.

Jeff Gold, AP Business Writer in New Jersey, has continued to dig into the complete failure of the “voluntary recall” system to get this E. coli – contaminated Topps hamburger off store shelves. I posted nearly a week ago when reports first surfaced that the product was still being sold a month after Topps issued a recall (and went out of business). So, who is responsible for removing E. coli – contaminated meat off store shelves?  Mr. Gold’s story:

State inspectors find more recalled meat at New Jersey stores

Meat recalled a month ago that could be contaminated with a potentially fatal bacteria was found in seven northern New Jersey stores, state consumer safety officials said Tuesday. Inspectors in the past week have seized 138 boxes of frozen hamburgers made by Topps Meat Co., which issued a nationwide recall on Sept. 29 for 21.7 million pounds of frozen patties.

Greater New York Frozen Food Distribution Co. Inc., of New York, was subpoenaed last week. A spokesman for the company said Tuesday that no meat was delivered after the recall. "The meat was delivered before the recall, on Sept. 10," spokesman Frank Conner said. "We are one of many companies that delivered the meat before the recall. We stopped delivering the meat as soon as we heard about the recall. We have no control over what a grocery store owner does with his stock."

"Recall," that it has been reported that there are at least three "genetic fingerprints" of E. coli O157:H7 (potentially meaning that the contamination at Topps came from multiple sources – at least three) that has been found in ill people and in left over product.  One of those fingerprints was found in a Canadian Meat Plant (now also in bankruptcy) that was the source of both meat to Topps and to the death of one Canadian and the sickening of 44 others this past summer.  It will be interesting if the paperwork and grinding records at Topps allows for the "traceback" of all genetic fingerprints to the source.