Bill Tomson writer for the Wall Street Journal wrote in yesterday’s WSJ – “U.S. Agency to Focus Efforts On Reducing E. coli Threat.” According to Mr. Tomson, we can all expect “just as many beef recalls, if not more, in 2008 as they did this year….”  According to USDA officials:

It took one of the largest-ever beef recalls — 21.7 million pounds of frozen hamburger patties linked to severe illnesses — in 2007 to make USDA officials question whether beef processors around the country were following safety guidelines when it came to E. coli contamination. The New Jersey-based Topps Meat Co., the producer behind the massive recall, certainly wasn’t, USDA officials said.

"When we sent food-safety assessors into the Topps plant, we found that their policies they had in place were not being followed nearly as vigorously as they had been just two years ago when we did a food-safety assessment in the same plant," USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Richard Raymond said in an interview…. "We don’t know if Topps was the tip of the iceberg and other plants have gotten sloppy, or Topps was kind of an isolated incident," Mr. Raymond said.

I have been "flawging" about this "uptick" in recalls and ill people.  I only hope the USDA figures out what is going on before more people get sick or die.  Some of my earlier posts:

E. coli’s Comeback: What’s up with that?

E. coli O157:H7 — It’s back, with a vengeance

Months ago in a post: "Put me out of business – Please – 2007,"  I said, I am not sure I know the reason for the new and ominous trend (these are the largest meat recalls in five years), but by anyone’s count these numbers are concerning. What I do know is that these recent outbreaks have all the ugly signs of another national emergency. As a nation – and that includes all federal and local government agencies as well as the private sector – we cannot let the positive tend of the past become another acceptable body count. We need to figure out why this has happened. My suggestion – if Congress was willing to drop everything in order to investigate the deaths of a dozen cats due to contaminated pet food from China – perhaps bringing all the executives of the companies responsible for this recent rash of outbreaks, recalls and illnesses to Washington for a few days of questioning (under oath) might help us get to the bottom of this.