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.

More Mad

From an article in the San Francisco Chronicle about the Salmonella mystery

The agency has found, for example, that tomatoes from Mexico have been shipped to Florida, repacked and sold with tomatoes from Florida. Similarly, tomatoes from the United States are sent to Mexico, where they are repacked and shipped to the United States as a product of the United States.

I added the underline.  This just doesn’t seem right.

Current sickness toll is up to 810.  I’ve had tomatoes on my sandwiches or salads a couple times this week. Its a little early for most tomatoes grown in Michigan but I’m sure they are available to local-focused restaurants.  Fazoli’s last night?  Who knows where those came from.

If “cleared tomatoes” are mixed with still under suspicion tomatoes, the outbreak can continue.

Further fostering confidence in the FDA and CDC are reports that the agencies are starting to look at other sources for the salmonella outbreak.  The comment from one “tomatoes are eaten with a lot of other things.”


Previously related post: MAD


Why is there no tomato on my sandwich? What do you mean I can’t buy tomatoes at the grocery store? It is summertime, tomatoes are required eating!

Seems a salmonella outbreak has sickened approximately 165 people. About 25 have required hospital treatment. According to the FDA’s statement, only Roma and round red tomatoes are suspected in the outbreak. Cherry, grape and tomatoes on the vine are still okay. The outbreak started in mid-April and six weeks later, they still don’t know the source of these tomatoes gone bad. But they do know that tomatoes from Arkansas, California, Canada, Texas, Belgium and Israel are safe to eat (for the full list, see the FDA list: Hot Topics: Tomatoes.

I find it interesting that tomatoes from Texas are considered safe, even though almost 60 people (of the 155) that fell ill were from Texas.  My deepest suspicion, however, lies south of the border.  The two likeliest sources, simply based on volume, are Florida and Mexico.  Many sections of Florida have been deemed safe but not all areas.  Much of the Florida tomato crop is sold to companies that process those tomatoes in to pasta sauce, jarred salsa, catsup and so on. Central Florida is still on the suspect list but Mexico looms much larger in my mind.  Reading below the line, I’m going to talk about FDA regulations. I don’t like ’em BUTwhen we are talking about importing food from another country, that is a different situation.  China’s poisoned pet food is a plenty large red flag that should lead you to think twice about the source of your food.  If you, foreign country, can’t provide us with safe, clean food, we don’t want it.  Korea doesn’t want our beef due to mad cow fears; Russia and Japan have declined our chicken recently due to the positive avian flu tests on Tyson chicken in Arkansas. That’s a two way street, right?

The good news is, home-grown tomatoes are safe. And I bet that tomatoes you get from the farmer’s market are safe too. Unfortunately, our tomatoes are several weeks from edibility but I’m sure there are some good options at the market.  Of course, shopping at the farmer’s market also means I can ask how the tomatoes were grown, when they were picked and if any pesticides were used.


There is a growing cry from certain media outlets that the government needs to fix our food supply.  I don’t want some guy in DC telling me what I can and can’t eat. I love sushi and I understand the risks that may be associated with eating raw fish. If I suspect the sushi bar isn’t clean or the fish not fresh, I don’t eat it.  I’m smart like that, as are most Americans. You smell the milk, its obviously bad, you throw it out.  You realize that raw chicken in the fridge starts to get a little shady looking after 4 or 5 days, better use it up quicker than that.  Humans have an innate “risk aversion” sense that tells them not to eat something because it might make them sick.  Its a lot easier for this sense to work if the food you are contemplating isn’t filled with chemicals to keep it fresh looking.  When did we decide to wash our hands of all responsibility for thinking for ourselves?  When did we decide that some random bureaucrat should make up the rules about what’s okay to eat?

I do not believe that the FDA should be standing over our shoulders inspecting every piece of produce that goes in to market. Nor do I believe that onerous regulations on tomato growers (or any other produce)  is the answer. A giant farm in Florida that sells 90% of its crop to Heinz can afford to meet these regulations. What about the little guy down the street that produces enough tomatoes to take to the local Farm Market on Saturday?  Our food production system in this country has only gotten bigger and bigger, more and more processed.  All this processing has led to the FDA and USDA to create rules, regulations and laws that govern the preparation of food.  This favors the big corporations and we lose sight of the route from garden to mouth.  It also creates a vicious cycle of ever bigger processing and production facilities to cover the growing cost of meeting those rules and regulations.  And I’m not saying those giant production facilities are actually adhering to the rules and meeting the standards. 

Go back to what I said about talking to the local farmer.  I talk to the guy at the Market and ask him about his methods.  If I have a bad feeling or don’t approve, I can walk away.  I bet if I wanted to, I could go to his farm and see the tomatoes in the ground.  Join a CSA and you probably will have to go to the farm to pick up your weekly share. Think of all the knowledge you can garner by developing a relationship with local growers. And not just tomatoes, besides all the other vegetables and fruits that could be available at the height of freshness, you will find good sources of chicken, beef and lamb, eggs and dairy products.  Think of meat raised without antibiotics, fed the right types of grain or grass for their natural diets, thus not requiring special supplements to counter the negative effects. Oh, the happy cows that produce yummy local cheese and milk.  The chickens that eat and live outdoors help to fertilize the land for the next crop, creating a very non-vicious cycle of sustainable farming.

 Last minute update: Michigan tomatoes are safe! So you locals, get out to the Farm Market and buy some tomatoes!  If you don’t have a convenient market or tomatoes are scarce, go to your local grocery store and ask them where the tomatoes are coming from.  Request they label them for source. Meijer is usually pretty good about posting the source of much of their produce.  If the manager doesn’t know where the veggies came from, ask why not!