Not too long ago, I wondered if the beef industry had actually wised up, and was about to put me out of the business of representing the people they make sick.  After a decade of nearly continuous outbreaks of deadly E. coli O157:H7, from Jack in the Box to ConAgra, the beef industry seemed to suddenly clean up its act.  Earlier this year, the American Meat Institute claimed the incidence of E. coli in meat had dropped by 80 percent.  That would have been good news for millions of Americans, especially young children, who are most vulnerable to food-borne illness.  It would have been good news for the beef industry.  And, believe it or not, it would have been good news to a lawyer who would prefer to never see another three-year-old child hooked up to a kidney dialysis machine.  But, of course, it was too good to be true. In the last few months, E. coli O157:H7 has returned – perhaps literally with a vengeance. 

I spent the last few days looking at as many resources that track red meat – primarily hamburger – recalls and the Illnesses stemming from them.  Here is what I have found – somewhat in chronological order.  2007 has had a substantial increase in the volume of recalls and illnesses in any year since 2002. By way of comparison, the amount of ground beef recalled in all of 2006 was 156,235 pounds in only 8 recalls. To date in 2007, over 29,248,167 pounds of meat have been recalled in 20 recalls. Well over 100 people have been sickened, some developing acute kidney failure – many have contacted me. There are several E. coli-related deaths that may be linked to consumption of hamburger. Here is the 2007 list of recalls (some do not list pounds recalled):

1. Tyson Fresh Meats of Wallula, Washington shipped 16,743 pounds of E. coli suspect meat to distributors in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Utah.

2. More than 100,000 pounds of frozen ground beef patties processed by a Merced company were recalled after three Little League teammates fell ill with E. coliRichwood Meat Co. issued a recall of the year-old frozen beef, which was produced in late April and early May 2006. The Merced plant distributed meat in California, Arizona, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

3. HFX Inc., recalled 259,230 lbs of beef products due to contamination with E. coli. USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service and the Pennsylvania Department of Health found several illnesses tied to steak products produced by HFX Inc. for Hoss’s Family Steak and Sea Restaurants, a chain based in Pennsylvania.

4. The Fresno County Health Department said that there were confirmed cases of E. coli in Fresno County. The Health Department has inspected the “Meat Market” in Northwest Fresno. Meat from the company may have been served at several private parties where 20 guests later became sick.  We represent several victims.

5. Davis Creek Meats of Michigan issued a beef recall because of E. coli contamination. The recall was for 129,000 pounds of beef products produced between March 1st and April 30th, and included the states of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

6. Lund’s and Byerly’s of Minnesota issued a ground beef recall prompted by the sickness of at least seven people who ate E. coli-contaminated ground beef produced by PM Beef Holdings and sold at Lund’s and Byerly’s stores in several states including Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Arizona, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Virginia. PM Beef, the meat company responsible for supplying tainted trim, withdrew nearly 117,500 pounds of beef it had shipped to eight states.  We represent several victims.

7. United Food Group, LLC, expanded its June 3 and 6 recalls to include a total of approximately 5.7 million pounds of both fresh and frozen ground beef products produced between April 6 and April 20 (the largest recall since 2002) because it was contaminated with E. coli. An investigation carried out by the California Department of Health Services and the Colorado Department of Health, in coordination with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, preceded the recall of June 3. Illnesses occurred in Arizona (6), California (3), Colorado (2), Idaho (1), Utah (1) and Wyoming (1). Illness onset dates ranged between April 25 and May 18.  We represent several victims.

8. Tyson Fresh Meats, Inc., recalled 40,440 pounds of ground beef products due to possible contamination with E. coli.

9. Custom Pack, Inc., recalled 5,920 pounds of ground beef and buffalo products because it may be contaminated with E. coli.

10. Abbott’s Meat Inc., recalled 26,669 pounds of ground beef products because it may be contaminated with E. coli.

11. Nine people have gotten sick in Washington, Oregon and Idaho from E. coli contaminated Interstate Meat beef. Federal and state health officials issued a consumer alert after contaminated beef produced by Interstate Beef of Oregon sickened nine people. Interstate recalled 41,205 pounds (approximately 20 tons) of beef.  We represent several victims.

12. Topps Meat Company expanded a recall of frozen hamburgers to 21.7 million pounds of patties because it was contaminated with a deadly type of E. coli, making it the second-largest ground beef recall in U.S. history. The largest ground beef recall in U.S. history was the 1997 Hudson Foods Company recall of 25 million pounds of ground beef. The third largest was the ConAgra Foods recall of 2002, which covered 19.7 million pounds of ground beef. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had identified 40 cases of E. coli in eight states. While this is the first recall in Topps’ 65-year history, it is not the first time the company has had problems with E. coli. In 2005, a 9-year-old girl in Glenmont, N.Y., went into kidney failure after being infected with bacteria linked to a Topps beef patty. Ill persons reside in 8 states – Connecticut (2), Florida (1), Indiana (1), Maine (1), New Jersey (9), New York (13), Ohio (1), and Pennsylvania (12).  We represent several victims.

13. Impero Food and Meats, Inc., recalled 65 pounds of ground beef products because it may be contaminated with E. coli bacteria. The company’s president said the meat was distributed to five pizza restaurants in the Maryland area.

14. Fresh Brands Distributing Inc., recalled ground beef products sold by some of its Piggly Wiggly stores in Illinois after E. coli infections in two people may have been associated with beef bought in Wisconsin, the company said. Sheboygan-based Fresh Brands operates Piggly Wiggly stores throughout Wisconsin and in Antioch, Galena, Grayslake and Zion, Illinois.

15. Fairbank Reconstruction Corp., doing business as Fairbank Farms recalled 884 pounds of ground beef products because it may be contaminated with E. coli.

16. Del-Mar Provision Co., Inc., recalled 50 pounds of ground beef products because it may be contaminated with E. coli.

17. Arko Veal Co., recalled 1,900 pounds of ground beef products because it may be contaminated with E. coli.

18. J & B Meats Corporation Inc., recalled 173,554 pounds of frozen ground beef products because it may be contaminated with E. coli.

19. Cargill Meat Solutions Corporation recalled 845,000 pounds of frozen ground beef patties produced at its Butler, Wisconsin location because it was contaminated with E. coli. A search through Health Department websites and news has shown at least 13 people ill, and probably 14, 3 still hospitalized – 2 still in critical condition.  We represent several victims.

20. American Foods Group, LLC (AFG), recalled 95,927 pounds of various coarse and fine ground beef products because it was contaminated with E. coli. The problem was discovered through an investigation into two illnesses that was initiated by the Illinois Department of Public Health. A death may be linked to the product in Kentucky.

I expect to hear that the above is just better reporting  – tell that to the families and the kids.  I have posted twice on the "uptick" in E. coli related outbreaks – See 1 and 2 – more to follow.  Also read today’s article from USA Today, "Most recalled meat is never recovered, likely is eaten."
As I have said before, "Safe Food in the US is a Train Wreck."