Sunday, August 10, 2008

Whole Foods Recalls Beef
E. coli tainted beef linked to Nebraska Beef Ltd.

Whole Foods, the upscale national chain of grocery stores specializing in organic and natural foods, announced Friday a voluntary recall of ground beef from its Nebraska-based supplier Coleman Natural Beef because of contamination by E. coli 0157:H7. The problem can, apparently, be traced back to earlier problems with Nebraska Beef Ltd.

The recall comes after the Massachusetts Department of Public Health issued a warning to residents of that state not to eat ground beef purchased from Whole Foods between June 2 and Aug. 6, 2008. Seven people in Massachusetts were infected and five were hospitalized with E. coli from the tainted beef, according to the Boston Globe. In a press release, Whole Foods pledged to “continue to work with state and federal authorities as this investigation progresses”.

So far, more than 50 people have been infected in nine states including – most recently – Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. Michigan and Ohio have been particularly hard hit with more than 40 cases between them. The recall follows an earlier recall in July of beef from Nebraska Beef Ltd., from whom Coleman apparently received the beef which was later sent to Whole Foods.

“While Coleman Natural Beef is a relatively small supplier for Whole Foods Market, we are extremely disappointed that we must now question Coleman’s assurances,” said Edmund Lamacchia, global vice president of procurement in the Whole Foods release.

As of Aug. 10, no information about the recall was available on the Coleman Natural web site.

Nebraska Beef Ltd., a privately held company based in Omaha, Neb., has been struggling with repeated recalls of its products since May. The company recalled 5.3 million pounds of beef produced between May 16 and June 26. According to the United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service, Nebraska Beef utilizes unsanitary production practices.

“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,” FSIS said in a press release issued July 3. “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.” [Emphasis mine]

It’s this distribution of Nebraska Beef’s product to other companies without any sort of source identification that has caused problems for Whole Foods and Coleman’s.

1 comment:

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