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Food Safety News

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Recent Beef Recall May Have Been Error

In what might be much ado about a recall involving only 90 pounds of ground beef, private lab results are being used to call into question the accuracy of the original testing by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety & Inspection Service (FSIS).

Here’s what happened.

Fairbury Steaks in Fairbury, NE took a shipment of bull meat, frozen in 60-pound boxes from a Yankton, SD distributor, Cimpl’s LLC.  The bull meat came with a certificate of analysis that it had tested negative for E. coli.

Fairbury Steaks then visually inspected it and ground it into hamburger.  Ground beef for testing was collected for both FSIS and Omaha-based Midwest Laboratories.

The private lab reports came back negative on Nov. 14th, and FSIS’s report was returned on Nov.17 and was positive.   That resulted in a High Health Risk recall for the 90 pounds of beef.

“FSIS found evidence of E. coli, ” FSIS’s Neil Gaffney told the Lincoln Journal Star. “When we find evidence of E. coli we take action immediately to have the product removed from commerce, if necessary, by recall.”

The USDA-certified Midwest Laboratories is disputing that, saying its negative tests are no indication of error on the part of FSIS.

Dennis Brown, Fairbury Steaks owner, recovered all 90 pounds from the Ruskin, NE restaurant where it was shipped.   Brown has never in 23 years in business had any beef test positive for E. coli.

So, he had nine samples of the recalled and recovered beef and one sample from a replacement shipment to a customer all sent into Midwest for testing.

All came back negative.  Brown had the results sent to the Nebraska newspaper.

Brown suspects he has been the victim of either a false positive or cross-contamination at the government’s testing lab.

FSIS is not talking about that possibility.

© Food Safety News
  • jmunsell

    The situation confronting Dennis Brown, Fairbury Steaks owner, has already victimized countless other further processing plants, and continues to expose systemic problems within USDA’s current deregulated meat inspection system. Mr. Brown’s plant does not slaughter, but totally depends on source provider slaughter plants which sell him all the meat he further processes into steaks, roasts, and burger. He has done everything right, including obtaining Certificates of Analysis (COA’s) on incoming meat destined for grinding. Although the COA’s state that the meat was previously tested for E.coli, and tested negative, the meat nonetheless tested positive at the USDA lab. What else could Mr. Brown have done? The only workable future option for him will be to close his doors. Think about the consequences of such an action! Although Mr. Brown closes up shop, his supplier continues to ship frozen, boneless bull meat across the country. Exactly this scenario has happened for many years now, in which small and very small plants across America have been closing their doors, while the behemoth source slaughter plants continue operations as is, with no corrective actions. What would happen if Mr. Brown became a food safety activist, and commences public revelations of all the sordid details of how the agency has pursued this present problem. First of all, the agency would target Mr. Brown for substantive enforcement actions, to teach him (and ALL other plant owners) to keep their mouths shut, and not disclose how USDA artificially insulates the big source slaughter plants from accountability. And, Mr. Brown could very well be blackballed by all industry suppliers, who would perceive him to be a rolling cannon on the industry deck. Please remember Michael Moss’ recent article in the NYTimes revealing that some large packers will NOT sell meat to further processing plants if the plants test incoming product. Even the largest downstream entities, such as Costco, have been forbidden to test incoming meat (although Tyson subsequently relented and stated [subsequent to Mr. Moss’ article] that Costco could test incoming meat purchased from Tyson). USDA disengenuously stated that HACCP is a “Farm To Table” food safety system. False! In the eyes of USDA, HACCP has degenerated to a food safety system which starts and ends with the downstream further processor, while the originating slaughter establishment remains off the agency radar. Further exacerbating the problem is the fact that USDA allows slaughter plants to ship into commerce intact beef cuts which are knowingly surface-contaminated with E.coli. I respectfully suggest that E.coli are not our primary adversary here: USDA’s deregulated meat inspection is! Remember the old National Guard slogan “Sleep well tonight; Your National Guard is protecting you”? Since the advent of HACCP, the saying could be made “Sleep well tonight; USDA is” John Munsell

  • John Munsell

    The situation confronting Dennis Brown, Fairbury Steaks owner, has already victimized countless other further processing plants, and continues to expose systemic problems within USDA’s current deregulated meat inspection system. Mr. Brown’s plant does not slaughter, but totally depends on source provider slaughter plants which sell him all the meat he further processes into steaks, roasts, and burger. He has done everything right, including obtaining Certificates of Analysis (COA’s) on incoming meat destined for grinding. Although the COA’s state that the meat was previously tested for E.coli, and tested negative, the meat nonetheless tested positive at the USDA lab. What else could Mr. Brown have done? The only workable future option for him will be to close his doors. Think about the consequences of such an action! Although Mr. Brown closes up shop, his supplier continues to ship frozen, boneless bull meat across the country. Exactly this scenario has happened for many years now, in which small and very small plants across America have been closing their doors, while the behemoth source slaughter plants continue operations as is, with no corrective actions. What would happen if Mr. Brown became a food safety activist, and commences public revelations of all the sordid details of how the agency has pursued this present problem. First of all, the agency would target Mr. Brown for substantive enforcement actions, to teach him (and ALL other plant owners) to keep their mouths shut, and not disclose how USDA artificially insulates the big source slaughter plants from accountability. And, Mr. Brown could very well be blackballed by all industry suppliers, who would perceive him to be a rolling cannon on the industry deck. Please remember Michael Moss’ recent article in the NYTimes revealing that some large packers will NOT sell meat to further processing plants if the plants test incoming product. Even the largest downstream entities, such as Costco, have been forbidden to test incoming meat (although Tyson subsequently relented and stated [subsequent to Mr. Moss’ article] that Costco could test incoming meat purchased from Tyson). USDA disengenuously stated that HACCP is a “Farm To Table” food safety system. False! In the eyes of USDA, HACCP has degenerated to a food safety system which starts and ends with the downstream further processor, while the originating slaughter establishment remains off the agency radar. Further exacerbating the problem is the fact that USDA allows slaughter plants to ship into commerce intact beef cuts which are knowingly surface-contaminated with E.coli. I respectfully suggest that E.coli are not our primary adversary here: USDA’s deregulated meat inspection is! Remember the old National Guard slogan “Sleep well tonight; Your National Guard is protecting you”? Since the advent of HACCP, the saying could be made “Sleep well tonight; USDA is” John Munsell