November 2007

Well, I can’t say we made much progress with ConAgra in trying to find a path towards resolving customer illnesses from ingesting Salmonella-tainted Peanut Butter. What both sides are still trying to figure out is less what the value of a Salmonella cases is (just ask me, after settling over 2,500 in the last few

On the same day it was announce that I settled the last of the Salmonella suits against Sheetz, the Post-Bulletin of Rochester reported that “Quizno’s outbreak came from outside source.” The common denominator was Tomatoes.

A foodborne illness outbreak at Quizno’s Subs, 3499 22nd Ave. N.W. in Rochester, wasn’t the restaurant’s fault. Larry Edmonson, an

I am still in New Orleans. I must admit, I expected a bit more devastation here in the downtown area from Katrina, but things looked great  – especially in the French Quarter.  We made some slow progress in talking to ConAgra, its lawyers and insurers about the status of the Peanut Butter cases.  Hopefully, at

As reported by the Altonna Mirror today, a key lawsuit in the Sheetz Inc. bad tomato case has been settled out-of-court, according to an order issued by Blair County President Judge Jolene G. Kopriva. Altoona resident Max Christian Anslinger filed a lawsuit against the convenience store chain after he became sick on what he claimed

I am sitting at home not wanting to head to the airport for a trip to New Orleans (it is Thanksgiving weekend anyway) to meet with lawyers and insurers from ConAgra (sounds fun?).  I must admit that I am skeptical of the meeting given that to date ConAgra has resolved no claims of any significance

"We believe in caring for our customers and caring for our employees. That will not change."
                Tom Rosen, Co-Chairman of American Foods Group, LLC

Oh, Really?  I guess lightning can strike more than once in the same spot!

American Foods Group, LLC (AFG), a Green Bay, Wisconsin firm, is recalling approximately 95,927 pounds of various coarse and fine ground beef products because they are contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today. The ground beef products subject to recall were produced on Oct. 10, 2007, and were distributed to retail establishments and distributors in Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Virginia. The problem was discovered through an investigation into two illnesses that was initiated by the Illinois Department of Public Health.   That is how the USDA figures out outbreaks – send the contaminated meat into the market place and see if people get sick – the American pubic, canaries in the coal mine.  I wonder if AFG did any "test and hold?"

The FSIS web site also reflects that American Foods Group (AFG) is a processing establishment, and does not slaughter. The web site also shows that the establishment is part of a conglomerate which also owns Green Bay Dressed Beef, which has more than one establishment, one of which is Est # 410 in Green Bay, which does slaughter.  Green Bay Dressed Beef had a Mad Cow scare in August 2005.

Unfortunately for AFG’s customers this was not an isolated occurrence.  We have seen this all before.  In December 2000, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) issued a press release stating that 17 Minnesota citizens had been infected with the same strain of the E. coli O157:H7 bacteria during November 2000.  On December 4, FSIS, stated in a Class I alert that Green Bay Dressed Beef, the meat supplier doing business as AFG, was, at the suggestion of the FSIS, recalling 1.1 million pounds of contaminated ground beef.  One of the young children we represented developed Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS).

Also, In December 1998, another recall was issued for 1,000 pounds of beef manufactured by AFG and distributed to Cub Foods stores in the Chicago, Illinois area after random testing showed that meat in one of the stores was contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.  Again, in December 1999, a recall of ground beef was made after government inspectors found contamination at the AFG plant.  Yet another recall,  this time for over 500,000 pounds of ground beef manufactured by AFG, occurred in August 2001In that outbreak we represented five people.

Jennifer Smith Richards of the Columbus Dispatch weighed in on the recent AFG recall in an article “More beef might be tainted, states told.”  AFG’s shocking indifference is concerning:

"It’s something that, unfortunately, happens with a raw product like ground beef," said Jim Mulhern, a spokesman for American Foods Group. "It’s not 100 percent preventable….  One of the problems with these recalls is American Foods Group doesn’t know where it was eventually sold," Mulhern said.

One more "beef" of mine – It is an agreement between USDA and industry — USDA will not disclose the names of slaughter houses without a positive test “above the grinder” – which is why there is no mention of where the meat came from that was ground by AFG in this latest recall.  Also, on the "downside" of the grinder – on the retail side – there is also an agreement between USDA and industry to not disclose “proprietary information” – which includes where the contaminated meat was sold.  Health Departments have to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to not disclose that information to the public in order to get the information from USDA.  Welcome to my world — ever read Kafka?  I put some of my thought on this recall out in a press release.

The following products are subject to this most recent recall:

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The FDA Today Reminds Consumers to Practice Egg Safety This Holiday Season

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reminds consumers to pay special attention to the handling of eggs and preparation of foods that contain eggs during this holiday season. Some holiday favorites, such as cookie dough, homemade eggnog, and some types of stuffing,