I do not sleep much. So, in the middle of the night when Valley Meats press release hit the wire about their “Multiple Testing and Safety Procedures in the Processing of Beef Products,” I was awake and could not help but think what will Abby’s grieving parents will think about Valley Meats new-found love for food safety.

You might recall that on May 21, 2009, four days after Abby’s death, the FSIS announced that Valley Meats LLC, a Coal Valley, Ill., establishment was recalling approximately 95,898 pounds of ground beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7. The “problem” as FSIS said was discovered through an epidemiological investigation of illnesses. On May 13, 2009, FSIS was informed by the Ohio Department of Health of a cluster of E. coli O157:H7 infections. Illnesses have been reported in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Illinois.  Abby died of Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome.

Here is a bit of Abby’s story:

E. coli Victim: Abby Fenstermaker from Marlerclark on Vimeo.


Here is a portion of Valley Meat’s press release:

… While lawmakers prepare to introduce legislation to mandate greater E. coli inspections of ground beef and national media fuels the debate on the need for greater testing and safety procedures, one regional Illinois-based processor, Valley Meats, has taken a major pre-emptive move and has instituted a series of state-of-the-art testing and treatment technologies to eradicate harmful pathogens into their product stream.

… Valley Meats, which owns and operates a successful 30,000-square-foot food processing facility in Coal Valley, Illinois, has recently employed the highly-effective Test-and Hold system for finished ground beef verification sampling and the SANOVA® disinfectant system to continuously spray the surfaces of raw materials used to produce ground beef products.

… As one of a small percentage of beef processors in the U.S. to routinely employ test-and-hold inventory management protocols, Valley Meats’ finished ground beef sampling system is one of the industry’s most effective, delineating responsibilities for personnel, documentation, equipment and materials. The program clearly defines guidelines for raw material handling, sampling of finished product, testing of two hour production lots and USDA/FSIS sampling.

… Corrective actions based on improper sample collection, presumptive positive test results and safety zones are established to ensure that no implicated product enters commerce.

… If a pathogen is detected, the entire lot is either sold to a “cooker”, a firm that cooks or sells prepared meat (E. Coli bacteria is destroyed when properly cooked at minimum temperatures of at least 160ºF) or the lot is destroyed.

For Abby’s parents, the question is why now? Why not ten months ago?