In the early morning hours of Sunday, June 28, the JBS Swift Beef Company expanded the earlier recall of 41,280 pounds of beef contaminated with the highly toxic pathogen E. coli O157:H7 to include an additional 380,000 pounds. The beef recalls are FSIS Class I, meaning the “use of the product will cause serious, adverse health consequences or death.” The company and The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) have made available a list of recalled products, but so far have refused to reveal where those products were shipped, even in light of illnesses linked to the meat.
“The FSIS has indicated that 24 E. coli illnesses are being investigated in connection with the recall, and 18 have been linked,” said food safety advocate and attorney William Marler. “Yet consumers have no information as to what states or countries the tainted meat was shipped to or what retail outlets or restaurants received it. JBS Swift has this information at its fingertips, FSIS should have access to it as well, and it is unconscionable that they have not made it available to the public.”
“The JBS Swift beef recall is the seventh so far in 2009. FSIS policy of identifying retailers that received recalled products within 3-10 days appears to be getting a hit-or-miss application. At times, retailers were identified on the same day as a recall, and on others, not at all,” added Marler.
“We know where we shop,” continued Marler. “If we are told that the supermarket where we buy our food received beef that has been recalled due to contamination with a pathogen that could severely sicken our family, we’re going right to the refrigerator to see if we have any of the product. On the other hand, if we hear that some beef has been recalled, and maybe see a list of numbers and codes, most of us are going to assume that the recall doesn’t apply to us. Because if it did, certainly we would be alerted by the government agency responsible for our health. We entrust our family’s lives to the FSIS and to the companies it regulates. They must step forward with the information that consumers need, and they must do it now.”
After years of large recalls, focused efforts by meat regulators brought down E. coli contamination recalls to a low of 182,000 pounds in 2006. Recalls shot up again in 2007, and in the ensuing years (2007-2009), over 42 million pounds of beef have been recalled due to contamination with E. coli O157:H7.