E. coli for everyone!

The big news, its another beef recall due to E. coli. And not just any ole’ bug, but the O157:H7 variety of E. coli.   From the linked article:

The U.S. Agriculture Department on Friday said Omaha meat packing company Nebraska Beef Ltd is recalling 1.2 million pounds of beef because it may be contaminated with a particularly dangerous strain of E. coli.

The recall is of beef prepared for shipment to retailers but not yet cut up in supermarket sized portions.

The recall is “Class 1,” meaning there is a “reasonable probability” that eating the beef “will cause serious, adverse health consequences or death,” the USDA said. It is the most dangerous level of the three classes of recall.

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service said the beef was sent to processing establishments and retail stores across the United States and had been produced June 17, June 24 and July 8.

How likely is that the beef involved is still sitting in processing establishments and retail stores waiting to get broken down in to smaller packages for the consumer? In case you missed it, Nebraska Beef had a massive ground beef recall earlier this year. And the company has had some major compliance issues with USDA inspections over the last several years. 

Making bigger headlines today but related to the Nebraska Beef problems is Whole Foods voluntary recall of ground beef sold in stores since June:

Whole Foods Market, the top US organic foods supermarket chain, announced this weekend a voluntary recall of fresh ground beef it sold since June 2 due to potential contamination with E. coli bacteria.
The beef “apparently came from Coleman Natural Beef, whose Nebraska Beef processing plant was previously subject to a nationwide recall for E. coli 0157:H7 contamination,” Whole Foods said.

According to Whole Foods, they didn’t know that Coleman was sending their beef to Nebrask Beef for processing.

In a smaller recall, S&S Foods of California is recalling ground meat after a boy scout camp experienced an outbreak of E. coli. 

S&S Foods of Azusa, Calif., is recalling 30-pound boxes of ground beef that went to distribution centers in Milwaukee and Allentown, Pa. The company is acting on the recommendation of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, agency spokeswoman Laura Reiser said yesterday.

The meat was intended for food service companies and institutions and was not being sold in stores, Reiser said. The Agriculture Department would not say where the beef might have gone, she said. “From a public health standpoint, that’s not going to help the consumer or the doctor to treat their illness,” she said.


Not in to E. Coli, how about some salmonella? A recent outbreak in the UK has affected approximately 90 people with at least one death.  The investigation there has found a possible source in Dawn Farm Foods in Ireland.  The meat was sold to Subway stores. This outbreaks is notable in that the average age of the people sickened is just 29. The strain linked to this outbreak, salmonella agona is rare, accounting for approximately 1.5% of salmonella infections.
More here and here.

Don’t forget the pets!
Mars Petcare US announced a voluntary recall of 100 of the 20-pound bags of PEDIGREE(R) Complete Nutrition Small Crunchy Bites sold in Southern California and Las Vegas, Nevada to a limited number of Albertsons locations due to potential Salmonella contamination.

During the height of the tomato/pepper/cilantro/salsa/something from Mexico Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak, there were news reports of an isolated poisioning by salmonella in Lake Garda, Italy. Approximately 30 people, mostly British tourists fell ill while on vacation at a hotel is this area. The onset of illness was very quick and one man died within 24 hours. An autopsy was carried out and eventually, the owner of the hotel was charged with manslaughter. Since early July, I haven’t been able to find any English-language updates to this story so I don’t know the current status of the hotel manager’s case or what the final determination for the source or type of infection. I was quite surprised to learn that the Italian authorities had charged the owner with such a serious crime. I guess here in America we just sue the pants of whomever has the deep pockets (i.e. Wal-Mart is the first to be named defendant after the outbreak here).

By the way, the Mexican authorities are rather insistent that their own testing has not found a positive pepper in conflict with the FDA’s claims that they found 1 pepper on a farm in Tamaulipas state that had the same salmonella which caused the S. saintpaul outbreak.
However, Agricola Zaragoza, the distribution center that provided the first real pepper clue, is recalling peppers distributed between June 30 and July 21 (the date of the press release) due to a possible contamination with Salmonella Saintpaul:

The jalapeno peppers were distributed to customers in GA and TX. The jalapeno peppers being recalled were shipped in 35-lb plastic crates and in 50-lb bags with no brand name or label.

The recall is a result of sampling by FDA, which revealed that these jalapeno peppers were contaminated with the same strain of Salmonella Saintpaul responsible for the current Salmonella outbreak. It is unknown at this time which, if any, of the more than 1,200 illnesses reported to date are related to this particular product or to the grower who supplied this product.

No name or label. Useful.

Hoomans iz stoopid

Since I was out of town last week, I didn’t get around to reading the June 25th edition of City Pulse until today.

I came right home and wrote this post after reading this article about the street food vendors in Downtown Lansing. The Council has instructed Clinton Tarver, who sells hot dogs in front of city hall, that he must get a peddler’s license at a cost of $90. This is in addition to the other 2 permits he has (that cost $180) and the $200 monthly fee paid to the City’s Principal Shopping District (a government entity, FYI).

Sandy Allen, 2nd Ward City Councilwoman has decided to have her committee, Public Safety, look in to whether all the street vendors are properly licensed. Because, she is quoted as saying “right now we really don’t have much in the way of protecting people healthwise, and we really need to look at what is available and what needs to be done.”

And a piece of paper is going to stop me from getting E. coli or salmonella or listeria or any other nasty bug that sometimes lurks in food? Hot-diggity, where can I get one of those papers? I’ll just carry it around all the time and I’ll be a-okay.

The article goes on to quote Andy Bunnell of the Ingham County Health Department. According to him, all food vendors are required to take classes about food safety and they must be inspected prior to licensing.

Now that, I believe, makes sense. At least the food safety class- again, slapping a sticker on my food cart does not mean I’m the most cautious, cleanest vendor out there. But as a seller, I can only be helped by understanding that foods should be kept at certain temperatures to slow or stop bacterial growth.

The article mentions that Clinton has been selling his dogs and accompaniments for 10 years in the same spot. I venture to guess that if Clinton was selling bad dogs, he’d have gone under a long time ago, license or no license. Think back to the last time you felt a little stomach upset after dining out. I can clearly remember several incidents of food poisioning in my own history.

  1. Served bad milk in first grade. Result: stopped drinking school milk. I wouldn’t even call this food poisoning, it wasn’t contaminated just soured. Either way, I learned that lesson real quick.
  2. Entire family fell ill after dining in a Flint coney island. Result: thanked our lucky stars as being sick sent us home instead of to the movies, where a tornado struck that night. Also, didn’t go back to the restaurant for probably 10 years.
  3. Several family members got sick after eating in a Greektown restaurant in Detroit. Never went back (its since gone under).
  4. Failed to properly refrigerate dill dip from an East Lansing cafe. This was a bad experience but I correctly blamed myself for eating a dairy-based dip that had been left out on the counter. The restaurant (now gone) was hardly one to inspire confidence when you glimpsed the kitchen but in all the years we ate there, never once did I get sick from their food, directly.
  5. Ate corn on the cob that had been reheated in its original cooking water, not hot enough. Again, my fault and I paid dearly for this one.

I mention items 4 and 5 to prove a point. Most of the time, if you get food poisoning, its your own fault. Either you didn’t properly clean the cutting board when going from raw meat to fresh veggies or something wasn’t properly stored or reheated. Bet you wish you had the piece of paper promising you won’t get sick now, don’t ya?

My questions then are this:

  1. If Clinton Tarver and other street food vendors are already meeting the Health Department requirements, why do they need someone else looking over their shoulders?
  2. Am I and all the other lunchers in downtown too stupid to make up our own minds about what is safe to eat?
  3. Since when is it the city’s responsibility to take care of me? And if they really want to take care of me, how about doing it in a way that doesn’t punish small business owners but instead provides needed and wanted services to the community as a whole (i.e. shovel/plow the streets and sidewalks quickly in the winter).
  4. When did Americans become so willing to hand over their freedom of choice to the government? Do you not recognize that by asking the councils and boards and legislatures and congress and president to make laws to protect us, you are simply limiting your choice. How is that Councilperson Sandy Allen is more suited to deciding what is best for me, than me?

Unfortunately, I recently moved outside the city limits of Lansing so my powers of influence as taxpayer are reduced. Not completely gone since I still work in the city and in fact walk by Clinton’s Hot Dog cart on a regular basis. I would note that I didn’t choose Ms. Allen nor did I vote for her opposition, as I never lived in that ward even when I did reside in the city.

I, like Mr. Tarver, am no fool. This peddler’s license is not about protecting the people. Its about money, plain and simple. The city wants to get as much as it can, wherever it can. In the meantime, no one looks beyond today’s check for $90.

The price of food is going up, Clinton may have to raise his prices especially now that his taxes have gone up too (a permit fee is tax with a different name, you know it and I know it). That may put off one or two customers now but in another 3 months, he may lose 10% as less people eat downtown as budget constraints lead downtown businesses (and the government) to lay people off. Pretty soon the restaurants are down 30% and people have to start making decisions about whether or not to continue running their businesses. Next summer, Clinton realizes that after expenses for food and permits, he will not make enough to continue selling his dogs. One more small business owner out, one less person paying income taxes, one more home lost to foreclosure.

Is it going to happen this way? I don’t know. But I do know we are kidding ourselves if we think a permit will protect us from getting sick. And taxing everything to death serves no one.

One last item, the official description of the Public Safety Committee: Reviews service levels and issues related to public safety, including police, fire, ambulance, emergency services, traffic environment and the building inspection program.

Where does it say food police?!?!?