Dr. Richard Raymond, Under Secretary for Food Safety, FSIS is the fellow in charge with keeping cow poop out of your hamburger. However, press reports today seems to indicate that the good Doctor was asleep at the switch (knew for 18 days before they told anyone), or perhaps too busy telling us all that “the US meat supply is safe. “ As of today, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 29 cases of E.coli illness are suspected to be linked to the 21.7 million lbs of recalled ground beef products from Topps Meat Company LLC. No deaths have been linked to the meat. The 29 cases were in eight states: Connecticut (two cases), Florida (one), Indiana (one), Maine (one), New Jersey (six), New York (nine) Ohio (one) and Pennsylvania (eight), according to a posting on the CDC’s Web site. The 29 cases ranged in age from 3 to 77 years and at least 11 people were hospitalized.
Dr. David Goldman, Assistant Administrator, Office of Public Health Science, FSIS, tried to explain why FSIS waited for 11 days (not the 18 days originally reported). The upshot is that FSIS did not ask for a recall because FSIS believed that somehow the little girl in Florida had somehow contaminated the frozen hamburger not the other way around. FSIS waited until multiple positive samples from ill people from multiple states and from “unopened” box meat tested. Interestingly, there appears to be multiple strains of E. coli O157:H7 in individual hamburger patties.
Dr. Daniel Engeljohn, Deputy Assistant Administrator, FSIS has confirmed that this is the fifth biggest meat recall in US History. Also, FSIS announced that it will no longer wait to suggest recalls when it has just an E. coli positive stool sample and a E. coli positive meat sample from an opened box. Prior policy was to only suggest recalls if the meat tested came from an unopened box.
According to FSIS officials, the reason that the plant was shut down (well actually Topps shut itself) is because Topps was unable to produce records that showed that Topps was following its own internal Food Safety Protocols. No discussion as to when, or if, Topps will reopen.