Meanwhile, in Nebraska...
With tomatoes getting all the attention--or should I say Mystery Produce--you may have missed the latest ground beef outbreak in the Midwest.
On Thursday, Nebraska Beef, an Omaha-based meat packer, said it was recalling 5.3 million pounds of hamburger meat that it produced since in mid-May after it was linked to an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 in Ohio and Michigan. The Kroger grocery chain which bought from Nebraska Beef is pulling ground beef from stores across the country.
This was an expansion of a recall announced Monday of only a half a million pounds.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service explained the expanded recall thus:
FSIS has concluded that the production practices employed by Nebraska Beef, Ltd. are insufficient to effectively control E. coli O157:H7 in their beef products that are intended for grinding. The products subject to recall may have been produced under insanitary conditions.
The products subject to recall were further processed into ground beef at other firms, and will likely not bear the establishment number "EST 19336" on products made available for direct consumer purchase.
In a press release issued before the expanded recall notice, the company said in its defense that it had "processed over 10 billion pounds of product without a confirmed customer illness."
There is a lot of back story to this recall.
In 2003, USDA went to court to try to shut down Nebraska Beef 's Omaha packing plant after citing it for numerous violations. The company, in turn, sued USDA and challenged its authority require food safety plans and even won a court injunction stopping USDA from closing it down. Nebraska Beef and USDA later settled the case.
Three years later, Minnesota public health and USDA officials linked an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak in ground beef that killed a Minnesota woman to Nebraska Beef, although USDA never publicly named the company as the source. The woman who died ate meatballs at a church event. Her family sued Nebraska Beef and the company, in turn, sued the church saying the volunteers who prepared the food were at fault.
Most recently, in 2007, Nebraska Beef sued USDA again, saying its inspectors had unfairly targeted it. The suit was later dismissed.
I'll let you know what happens next because I have a feeling this is not the end of the story.
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