To refresh, on Christmas Eve, National Steak and Poultry recalled approximately 248,000 pounds of beef products (“mechanically tenderized” steak) that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7. The recalled meat was linked to illnesses in Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, South Dakota and Washington. Since then information has slowly slipped out that as many as twenty-one (21) people have been sickened in sixteen (16) states with at least nine (9) hospitalized. 

National Steak and Poultry did send out a warning to employees and certain customers on Christmas Eve.  Does anyone think they did not do the same to others who they may have sold these steaks to?

To date, other than Carino’s, Moe’s and the KRM restaurant group, the public has no knowledge of other restaurants the product may have gone (and, we know the product went to other restaurants).

In addition, the public has been kept in the dark where the illnesses have occurred – which state (still missing the names of ten (10) states) and the time frame of the illnesses.

I posted months ago about yet another recall where the public lacked information for days as to were the meat actually went. I have to ask again, what is the reason for the secrecy? Either the CDC, FSIS and National Steak and Poultry know where the E. coli-tainted steaks went or not? They either know the states where there are ill people, or they do not.  Does not the public have a right to know?

Here is a bit(e) of history – on August 18, 2008 after years of hand wringing, the FSIS finally put public health before “proprietary” business interests when it made the following rule: 9 C.F.R. § 390.10 Availability of Lists of Retail Consignees during Meat or Poultry Product Recalls:

The Administrator of the Food Safety and Inspection Service will make publicly available the names and locations of retail consignees of recalled meat or poultry products that the Agency compiles in connection with a recall where there is a reasonable probability that the use of the product could cause serious adverse health consequences or death.

The Bottom Line: The FSIS is now supposed to make available to the public names and locations of retail consignees (restaurants, grocery stores, etc.) of meat and poultry products recalled by a federally-inspected meat or poultry establishment if the recalled product has been distributed to the retail level. The rule will only apply to Class I recalls (like this one). The information is supposed to be posted on the FSIS website, generally within three (3) to ten (10) working days, following the announcement of the recall.

FSIS, it is now eight (8) days and counting.  Although there is no similar rules for the CDC, local and state health departments, National Steak and Poultry, or any of the restaurants that received the product, there is also no reason do not disclose the same information now in any event.  So, why the secrecy?  Like all news, good or bad, it will come out eventually.  So, why not now?