I have been pressing everyone I know in food safety and the meat industry about the “uptick" in E. coli cases in 2007.  Here are some ideas from recent press reports:

USDA says has enough legal authority to do recalls

“Raymond said there are several factors USDA is investigating that could be responsible for the uptick in E. coli discoveries.  Among them include the pathogen becoming resistant to drugs and changes in weather or diet that can lead to stress in the animal. He assured lawmakers it was not because companies are being careless or inspectors sloppy in their work.  "I think it’s starting with the animal’s environment," said Raymond. "There is a change in what we feed cattle and I don’t know if that has created a problem."

Is this an explanation?  What is the change?  I understand that perhaps with the increase in the price of oil there has been an increase in ethanol production and waste products – eaten by cows?  Anyone have any other ideas?  How about this:

Crackdown Upends Slaughterhouse’s Work Force

“Last November, immigration officials began a crackdown at Smithfield Foods’s giant slaughterhouse here, eventually arresting 21 illegal immigrants at the plant and rousting others from their trailers in the middle of the night.  Since then, more than 1,100 Hispanic workers have left the 5,200-employee hog-butchering plant, the world’s largest, leaving it struggling to find, train and keep replacements.  Across the country, the federal effort to flush out illegal immigrants is having major effects on workers and employers alike. Some companies have reluctantly raised wages to attract new workers following raids at their plants.  After several hundred immigrant employees at its plant in Stillmore, Ga., were arrested, Crider Poultry began recruiting Hmong workers from Minnesota, hiring men from a nearby homeless mission and providing free van transportation to many workers.”

Hmmm, a influx of unskilled US workers with high turnover – sound interesting.  What other ideas?

  • Curley

    I recently read an article on antibiotic resistant e-coli in Wales, England. Is this unrelated or related?

  • Nicole

    How about that the pet food industry dumped their melamine and cynanuric acid tainted food on the beef, chicken, hog and fish industry right before the recall in March 2007 and it seems after the recall as well. The tainted pet food was added to the feed of these animals. The animals and meat were not recalled because The FDA says due to the “dilution factor” (a ridiculous assumption) the animals that ate the food and the humans who ate the animal would not be effected. The FDA says that it would be confined to the organs in a diluted state and it would not get into the muscle without ever testing the muscle. Maybe this stress on the animals organs and/or rest of their body has caused and/or contributed to this issue.

  • Irradiate or Litigate
    Hi Bill,
    It has been a while since we’ve corresponded. During this time a lot has happened on the food borne illness/recall front, and from my perspective you are too busy. The amazing part is that I have not been busy enough! Evidently, the food industry, and more specifically the meat industry, has chosen to promote your services over ours. I guess you guys have better marketing talents?
    The latest Cargill recall is specifically interesting because of Wegman’s. Wegman’s sells non-irradiated ground meat and irradiated ground meat, both from Cargill. This is the first time, to my knowledge, where one batch of meat was recalled and its sister batch was not, due to preventative processing¬Öirradiation. This probably brings up some interesting litigation issues¬Öbut that’s your business¬Önot mine.
    Congress does not kill bacteria. Testing does not kill bacteria. Inspection does not kill bacteria. A Super Food Agency cannot kill bacteria. Even litigation does not kill bacteria. Irradiation kills bacteria, and yet is at the very bottom of the list.
    An incontrovertible fact: If the products that all of your clients ate had been irradiated, they would not have become sick. No recalls, no loss of brand names, no loss of sales, no loss of consumer confidence, and no expensive litigation. The industry is missing a sure bet. A few companies, (too few), such as Omaha Steaks, will not sell ground beef unless it has been irradiated.
    I believe that the food industry is trying to sell food borne illness as the Status Quo. What I fear is that they may be succeeding. It won’t be long before a new television channel is added to the line up¬Öthe “Total Recall Channel”!
    Yes, I am frustrated as an irradiator manufacturer that irradiation is not being employed. But, I am more frustrated that people suffer and die when they do not have to, especially when there is an existing and practical solution. And, I am also frustrated that I have to drive an hour to my nearest Wegman’s to buy irradiated ground beef¬Öthe only ground beef that I allow in my house.
    Back to the subject of marketing, perhaps the slogan that would work for both of us is:
    “Irradiate or Litigate”
    Hoping that you have more time for vacation in the near future,
    Russell N. Stein
    Vice President
    GRAY*STAR, Inc.

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  • Sam Grubb

    Hello Mr. Marler,
    I am a quality control manager in the food industry. Our standard operating procedure (SOP) requires that every product we make must pass microbiological testing BEFORE it is shipped. The test for coliforms takes only 24 hours. Any meat packer that insists on shipping their goods prior to getting negative results on coliform tests deserves to be driven out of business. Unfortunately, the consuming public does not deserve to suffer the illnesses and deaths that result. Thank you for your efforts to make them honest. I genuinely hope that someday soon, they will put you out of business.
    Sincerely considering a vegetarian diet,
    Sam Grubb

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