The AP and New York Times reported this evening that “a ground beef recall that has expanded to WinCo Foods stores in six Western states was prompted by a law firm’s investigation of contaminated beef products. “  No illnesses have been reported.

Because the meat could be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, WinCo recalled fresh ground beef that was packaged in styrofoam trays at the stores and marked with sale dates from March 28 to April 9. The warning covers about 70 stores in California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington.  WinCo, after learning about the bacterial contamination from an independent lab that was conducting a nationwide survey of ground beef for Marler Clark, a Seattle law firm specializing in food-borne illness cases, promptly recalled the meat.

According the the AP, Bill Marler commended WinCo Foods for issuing the recall, given that the information came from a private study. ”They certainly could have pushed back and said, ‘What is this, it’s a lawyer doing testing in a lab in Seattle,” he said. ”They could have taken the much less pro-consumer point of view, because obviously this is not something a company wants to do. Under the circumstances, I certainly appreciate what they did.”

The reason that Marler Clark had been doing the ground beef sampling was to determine the prevalence of enterohemorrhagic Shiga Toxin producing serotypes of Escherichia coli, including non-O157:H7 serotypes. The study is being conducted to help determine the need to list all disease causing E. coli’s as adulterants (Petition pending), like E. coli O157:H7 currently is. Recently, we added testing for E. coli O157:H7 as a control measure.