Harlan Spector of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported this morning that:

Last week, his [Cleveland Department of Health] department inspected Deekers Side Tracks in Mentor after an illness was reported. In all, four cases have surfaced in the Cleveland area.

Two of the infections led investigators to the North Olmsted VFW Post 7647, said the Cuyahoga County Board of Health. In addition, a 7-year-old Cleveland girl died [from HUS] Sunday from an E. coli infection that also may be linked to meat served at the VFW.

According to the article, the restaurant and VFW Hall appear to have served hamburger that has been linked to the nearly 100,000 pounds of E. coli O157:H7 product produced at Illinois Valley Meats LLC.

As I said yesterday, Valley Meats is located at 2302 1st St., Coal Valley, IL 61240.  One of the products recalled in this recent recall are a variety of J & B Brand Products.

Interestingly, J & B Meats Corporation (USDA EST. 5712) is (or was) also located at 2302 1st St., Coal Valley, IL 61240 and is (or was) a manufacturer of branded specialty meats and prepared foods serving the institutional food service market.  As of 2005, J&B Meats Corporation was a subsidiary of Topps Meat Company, LLC. Topps Meat was linked to dozens of illnesses in October 2007, was forced by FSIS to recall over 21,000,000 pounds of hamburger and eventually filed for bankruptcy.  J & B recalled nearly 175,000 pounds of hamburger in that recall, 76,000 pounds in August 2003, and in June 2002 recalled nearly 65,000 pounds of hamburger.

One would think that with the numbers Americans poisoned by E. coli O157:H7 increasing in the last two years, our President, Congress and the USDA would be asking one simple question – “What is going on?” Perhaps as a start it is would be better to be honest with the public as FDA’s Dr David Acheson was after an E. coli outbreak tied to spinach when he was quoted as saying: "The spinach that is going to come on to the market next week or whenever is going to be as safe as it was before this outbreak.”

Clearly this administration and Congress cannot yet critically analyze itself. Congress needs to act now. It is time for Congress to accept a leadership role and call hearings on “How safe is our meat supply?” not only to explore the reasons for this recent outbreak, but also to help prevent the next one. Congress must reach out to all facets of the meat industry, from “farm to fork,” to consumers who bear the burden of illnesses, and to academics and regulators to find reasonable, workable solutions to prevent meat-related illnesses. More regulation may not help. Testing all products may not be feasible. More funding for the CDC and USDA may not work. And, more funding for university research may also not be the answer. But, getting all to the same table is a start.