The E. coli illnesses of ten Vermont residents have been traced tainted beef from the Vermont Livestock, Slaughter, and Processing Company in Ferrisburgh. The USDA has recalled 2,758 pounds of ground beef from the company, and has put out warnings for consumers.
“In the last year and a half, the American meat industry has been in a spiral of recalls,” said food safety advocate and attorney William Marler. “More than 40 million pounds of meat tainted with E. coli O157:H7 has been publicly recalled, up by a factor of two hundred from the 2006 amount of 181, 900 pounds. This is a very dangerous and completely unacceptable level of contaminated beef making its way to consumers.”
In more than thirty recalls ranging from a few hundred to millions of pounds, the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) has deemed E. coli contaminated meat a class one health hazard to consumers. (A class I recall involves a health hazard situation in which there is a reasonable probability that eating the food will cause health problems or death.)
“There are many theories as to why there has been such an unprecedented jump in E. coli,” said Marler. “It could be regulatory complacency, better reporting, or immigration sweeps that have left slaughterhouses empty of skilled workers. Global warming may be spreading fecal dust and/or high oil prices may have led to an E. coli-producing diet for cattle. The microbe itself may even be evolving to elude capture. These ideas need investigation and research, so that real change can begin.”
The 2,758 pounds of ground beef subject to the Vermont recall was shipped in 5-pound packages labeled VT BURGER CO GROUND BEEF. They carry the number EST 9558 inside the USDA mark of inspection and a lot code of 090508A, 090808A, 091208A, 091908A or 092208A. The products were shipped two packages per box and were produced on Sept. 5, 8, 12, 19, and 22. The problem was discovered through a joint investigation with the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service and the state Health Department.