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National Steak & Poultry Should Pay Bills

Food safety advocate and attorney Bill Marler, whose Seattle law firm, Marler Clark, has been contacted by victims of the E. coli outbreak traced to the National Steak and Poultry steak recall that has sickened twenty-one people in California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, and Washington, called on National Steak and Poultry to pay the medical bills and lost wages of all individuals.

“We know that twenty-one people became ill, nine were hospitalized–one with Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS)–after eating National Steak and Poultry steak served at Olive Garden, Applebee’s, Moe’s Southwest Grill, Carino’s Italian and 54th Street Grill & Bar,” Marler said.

“The cost of treating victims of E. coli infections can run in the tens of thousands of dollars, or in a severe case, in the hundreds of thousands of dollars or more,” Marler continued. “These families need National Steak and Poultry to do more than promise to cooperate in the investigation into this outbreak. They need to know that National Steak and Poultry intends to fulfill its corporate responsibility by looking out for its customers.”

Marler noted that in other outbreak-situations companies such as Chi-Chi’s, Dole, Jack in the Box, ConAgra, Odwalla, Nestle, and Sheetz advanced medical costs for outbreak victims whose illnesses were traced to their food products.

© Food Safety News
  • jmunsell

    Let’s consider potential implications of meat plants which further process meat to be held accountable for consumer sicknesses, lost wages, etc.
    I know I’m redundant, but we must first realize that National Steak and Poultry falls into the same list of companies which have been involved in recalls & outbreaks caused by the presence of E.coli and Salmonella in their meat products. Please note that Salmonella and E.coli are classified as “Enteric” bacteria, which means by definition that the bugs originate from within animals’ intestines, and by extension, proliferate in manure, and especially on manure-covered hides. National Steak and Poultry does not slaughter! It has no intestines on its property, and no manure-covered hides. It purchases all its meat from source slaughter providers. All the meat arrives in containers labeled with the official USDA Mark of Inspection which states “USDA Inspected and Passed”. USDA/FSIS knowingly allows slaughter plants to ship into commerce intact cuts of meat which are surface-contaminated with E.coli, stating that such E.coli are not “adulterants” when found on the exterior of intact cuts. Hmmmmm. USDA Inspected and PASSED E.coli, and invisible to boot. We should not be surprised. The USDA further believes that once the intact cuts are further processed at these downstream plants, the previously “harmless” enteric bacteria supernaturally morph into deadly killers. Therefore, the originating slaughter plants are insulated from pathogenic liability, and all responsibility goes downstream with the previously-contaminated meat. Another example of this misplaced responsibility is the continuing effort to place blame for outbreaks on allegedly negligent consumers who fail to fully cook the contaminated meat. If we allow this misplaced responsibility to be assessed, Americans cannot claim they are educated, for surely their brains are in reverse.
    This will probably lead to a strong suggestion or MANDATE from the USDA that all further processing plants purchase equipment which can decontaminate all incoming meat, since the agency holds the slaughter plants blameless. I’ve seen one such piece of equipment at a Minnesota plant. It is a fully-enclosed, stainless steel spray cabinet (let’s call it a car wash) with dozens of spray nozzles around the entire perimeter of the machine’s interior. Meat is placed on a conveyor belt which slowly moves through the car wash, and the entire perimeter of the intact cut of meat is thoroughly sprayed with anti-microbial chemicles (like lactic acid) which kills pathogens on the exterior. The equipment I saw costs $14,000, which is a small sum to the LARGER further processing plants, but a huge expenditure to very small plants which would not even use it every day. And, retail meat markets typically lack the floor space required to implement such equipment. The number of small USDA-inspected plants have been decimated since HACCP’s advent, and will continue to diminish with these new developments. Interestingly, as domestic consumers realize the health advantages of purchasing locally grown meat, the number of government-inspected small local meat plants drops dramatically every year, and will continue to do so as more liability is placed on such plants to (a) detect invisible pathogens on incoming meat, and (b) to sanitize the contaminated (but USDA Passed) meat.
    Our urgent desire to place primary responsibility on these victimized downstream plants makes us unwitting accomplices with the USDA, which adroitly avoids close scrutiny of the large originating slaughter plants. HACCP has provided USDA the perfect tool to justify the agency’s semi-retirement at the largest plants, while simultaneously hyper-regulating the small plants out of existence. The largest four packers now kill 88% of all feedlot-fattened steers and heifers. These behemoths have tremendous political clout, and have requisite financing to engage USDA in protracted litigation in the event the agency is ever foolish enough to attempt truly meaningful enforcement actions at the huge originating slaughter plants.
    Folks, these ongoing outbreaks and recurring recalls are guaranteed to persist, until USDA is required to force the source (slaughter plants) to clean up their act.
    In 2002 my very small plant experienced a recall of 270 lbs of e.coli-contaminated ground beef. The USDA inspector who collected the sample, and his veterinarian supervisor hand-wrote a letter in which they identified plant # 969 (ConAgra in Greeley, CO) as the source of my bad meat. USDA rejected this alleged “personal opinion” and “hearsay” provided by its own inspectors, did nothing at ConAgra, but prevented me from grinding for four months. My grinder would still be silent, except for the serendipitous fact that ConAgra experienced a 19.1 million lb recall four months later. Of course, during those 4 months, USDA required no changes at ConAgra. Now, let’s assume that my ground beef sickened several consumers, and 1 consumer developed HUS. Litigation would have resulted in the sale of my small plant, and giving all proceeds to the sickened consumers. And, we must put this in the forefront of our minds and future strategy: no one (especially the USDA) would have forced the true source of contamination to implement corrective actions to prevent recurrences. So, my plant would have been history, and the high incidence of pathogens would continue unabated, even though my plant would be closed. Huh? Well folks, get used to it. Remember in ? 1999 ?, when Supreme Beef in Dallas was shuttered when the agency pulled its inspectors, because the plant’s ground beef continued to experience unacceptably high levels of Salmonella, another “Enteric” pathogen? Supreme Beef did not slaughter, but purchased all its meat from source slaughter providers. Yes, Supreme Beef is now history, but Salmonella outbreaks continue to proliferate. Why? Because Americans lack the fortitude to Force the Source, but are comfortable in Destroying the Destination plants.
    A USDA spokesman has stated that although small and very small plants represent 93% of all inspected plants, the small plants produce only 10% of our meat supply. We should be concerned that the huge multi-national packers produce 90% of our meat, while having only 7% of all plants. Better get used to the undeniable fact that the biggest plants will produce more than 90% of our meat as small plants continue to close their doors. We direly need a coalition of litigators, consumer activists, politicians and small plant owners who will jointly pressure the agency and Congress to mandate changes which focus primary liability on the ORIGIN of contamination, instead of the DESTINATION. Until this is done – mark my word – we will all be discussing the same topic five and ten years from now. FSIS has no problem with allowing the horses out of the barn, and subsequently leaving no stone unturned to find the horses downstream somewhere, where its enforcement actions are then focused.
    A USDA spokesman stated that the agency prefers to perform its microbial testing “As close to the consumer as possible”. At first blush, this policy appears to be very pro-consumer oriented. However, the agency did not tell the rest of the story, which is that such testing is being performed AS FAR AWAY FROM THE ORIGIN AS POSSIBLE. Wake up, America!
    Needle-tenderizing of meat is NOT the problem! Granted, if invisible enteric bacteria reside on the meat surface, true, the needling and/or cubing of the meat translocates the pathogens into the meat. We must admit that the PRESENCE of the pathogens is not CAUSED by the needling/cubing process. The pathogens were invisible passengers on the intact cuts which were shipped from the orginating slaughter plants. It is essential that we consider the fact that this current recall is only the fourth documented outbreak/recall/detection of e.coli in needled non-intact meat! In stark contrast, dozens of previous outbreaks/recalls/detections occurred in steaks, roasts and ground beef which had NOT been subjected to the needling or cubing operations. Do we realize that even if we outlaw the use of needlers and cubers, that the incidence of E.coli will remain unabated? Just stop for a moment and think: even if we junk all needling and cubing machinery, and close down Supreme Beef, my plant, and all other further processing plants which unwittingly purchase previously-contaminated meat, the incidence of consumer sicknesses will remain as is.
    We could use a contemporary Upton Sinclair. Only this time, the focus won’t be on the meat plants, but on a government agency which intentionally turns a blind eye to the SOURCE, while increasing its scrutiny at the DESTINATION. Egads folks, we are a bunch of idiots.
    John Munsell

  • jmunsell

    Ironically, Dr. James Marsden posted a blog on Meatingplace today entitled “The Problem with Eliminating the Symptom and Ignoring the Cause”, referring to e.coli 0157:H7. Talk about timely!
    Dr. Marsden’s concluding paragraph suggests a public hearing to discuss real solutions for E.coli, to evaluate actions that could eliminate the “root causes” of the problem. What a novel idea: identify and eliminate the cause!
    I respectfully challenge Bill Marler and all consumerist groups to advance the idea of such a public hearing, to join forces with Dr. Marsden, and to commit to aggressive involvement. Face it: although Mr. Marler has challenged the meat industry to “Put Him Out Of Business”, we cannot expect that either the meat industry or USDA/FSIS is interested in implementing policies which will reduce sicknesses, thus keeping Mr. Marler extremely busy. Bluntly speaking, USDA/FSIS should be considered an outsider in future progress, as it is monolitically opposed to actively scrutinizing the biggest slaughter plants. Pressure must come from outside sources, or absolutely zero progress will be made. John Munsell

  • John Munsell

    Let’s consider potential implications of meat plants which further process meat to be held accountable for consumer sicknesses, lost wages, etc.
    I know I’m redundant, but we must first realize that National Steak and Poultry falls into the same list of companies which have been involved in recalls & outbreaks caused by the presence of E.coli and Salmonella in their meat products. Please note that Salmonella and E.coli are classified as “Enteric” bacteria, which means by definition that the bugs originate from within animals’ intestines, and by extension, proliferate in manure, and especially on manure-covered hides. National Steak and Poultry does not slaughter! It has no intestines on its property, and no manure-covered hides. It purchases all its meat from source slaughter providers. All the meat arrives in containers labeled with the official USDA Mark of Inspection which states “USDA Inspected and Passed”. USDA/FSIS knowingly allows slaughter plants to ship into commerce intact cuts of meat which are surface-contaminated with E.coli, stating that such E.coli are not “adulterants” when found on the exterior of intact cuts. Hmmmmm. USDA Inspected and PASSED E.coli, and invisible to boot. We should not be surprised. The USDA further believes that once the intact cuts are further processed at these downstream plants, the previously “harmless” enteric bacteria supernaturally morph into deadly killers. Therefore, the originating slaughter plants are insulated from pathogenic liability, and all responsibility goes downstream with the previously-contaminated meat. Another example of this misplaced responsibility is the continuing effort to place blame for outbreaks on allegedly negligent consumers who fail to fully cook the contaminated meat. If we allow this misplaced responsibility to be assessed, Americans cannot claim they are educated, for surely their brains are in reverse.
    This will probably lead to a strong suggestion or MANDATE from the USDA that all further processing plants purchase equipment which can decontaminate all incoming meat, since the agency holds the slaughter plants blameless. I’ve seen one such piece of equipment at a Minnesota plant. It is a fully-enclosed, stainless steel spray cabinet (let’s call it a car wash) with dozens of spray nozzles around the entire perimeter of the machine’s interior. Meat is placed on a conveyor belt which slowly moves through the car wash, and the entire perimeter of the intact cut of meat is thoroughly sprayed with anti-microbial chemicles (like lactic acid) which kills pathogens on the exterior. The equipment I saw costs $14,000, which is a small sum to the LARGER further processing plants, but a huge expenditure to very small plants which would not even use it every day. And, retail meat markets typically lack the floor space required to implement such equipment. The number of small USDA-inspected plants have been decimated since HACCP’s advent, and will continue to diminish with these new developments. Interestingly, as domestic consumers realize the health advantages of purchasing locally grown meat, the number of government-inspected small local meat plants drops dramatically every year, and will continue to do so as more liability is placed on such plants to (a) detect invisible pathogens on incoming meat, and (b) to sanitize the contaminated (but USDA Passed) meat.
    Our urgent desire to place primary responsibility on these victimized downstream plants makes us unwitting accomplices with the USDA, which adroitly avoids close scrutiny of the large originating slaughter plants. HACCP has provided USDA the perfect tool to justify the agency’s semi-retirement at the largest plants, while simultaneously hyper-regulating the small plants out of existence. The largest four packers now kill 88% of all feedlot-fattened steers and heifers. These behemoths have tremendous political clout, and have requisite financing to engage USDA in protracted litigation in the event the agency is ever foolish enough to attempt truly meaningful enforcement actions at the huge originating slaughter plants.
    Folks, these ongoing outbreaks and recurring recalls are guaranteed to persist, until USDA is required to force the source (slaughter plants) to clean up their act.
    In 2002 my very small plant experienced a recall of 270 lbs of e.coli-contaminated ground beef. The USDA inspector who collected the sample, and his veterinarian supervisor hand-wrote a letter in which they identified plant # 969 (ConAgra in Greeley, CO) as the source of my bad meat. USDA rejected this alleged “personal opinion” and “hearsay” provided by its own inspectors, did nothing at ConAgra, but prevented me from grinding for four months. My grinder would still be silent, except for the serendipitous fact that ConAgra experienced a 19.1 million lb recall four months later. Of course, during those 4 months, USDA required no changes at ConAgra. Now, let’s assume that my ground beef sickened several consumers, and 1 consumer developed HUS. Litigation would have resulted in the sale of my small plant, and giving all proceeds to the sickened consumers. And, we must put this in the forefront of our minds and future strategy: no one (especially the USDA) would have forced the true source of contamination to implement corrective actions to prevent recurrences. So, my plant would have been history, and the high incidence of pathogens would continue unabated, even though my plant would be closed. Huh? Well folks, get used to it. Remember in ? 1999 ?, when Supreme Beef in Dallas was shuttered when the agency pulled its inspectors, because the plant’s ground beef continued to experience unacceptably high levels of Salmonella, another “Enteric” pathogen? Supreme Beef did not slaughter, but purchased all its meat from source slaughter providers. Yes, Supreme Beef is now history, but Salmonella outbreaks continue to proliferate. Why? Because Americans lack the fortitude to Force the Source, but are comfortable in Destroying the Destination plants.
    A USDA spokesman has stated that although small and very small plants represent 93% of all inspected plants, the small plants produce only 10% of our meat supply. We should be concerned that the huge multi-national packers produce 90% of our meat, while having only 7% of all plants. Better get used to the undeniable fact that the biggest plants will produce more than 90% of our meat as small plants continue to close their doors. We direly need a coalition of litigators, consumer activists, politicians and small plant owners who will jointly pressure the agency and Congress to mandate changes which focus primary liability on the ORIGIN of contamination, instead of the DESTINATION. Until this is done – mark my word – we will all be discussing the same topic five and ten years from now. FSIS has no problem with allowing the horses out of the barn, and subsequently leaving no stone unturned to find the horses downstream somewhere, where its enforcement actions are then focused.
    A USDA spokesman stated that the agency prefers to perform its microbial testing “As close to the consumer as possible”. At first blush, this policy appears to be very pro-consumer oriented. However, the agency did not tell the rest of the story, which is that such testing is being performed AS FAR AWAY FROM THE ORIGIN AS POSSIBLE. Wake up, America!
    Needle-tenderizing of meat is NOT the problem! Granted, if invisible enteric bacteria reside on the meat surface, true, the needling and/or cubing of the meat translocates the pathogens into the meat. We must admit that the PRESENCE of the pathogens is not CAUSED by the needling/cubing process. The pathogens were invisible passengers on the intact cuts which were shipped from the orginating slaughter plants. It is essential that we consider the fact that this current recall is only the fourth documented outbreak/recall/detection of e.coli in needled non-intact meat! In stark contrast, dozens of previous outbreaks/recalls/detections occurred in steaks, roasts and ground beef which had NOT been subjected to the needling or cubing operations. Do we realize that even if we outlaw the use of needlers and cubers, that the incidence of E.coli will remain unabated? Just stop for a moment and think: even if we junk all needling and cubing machinery, and close down Supreme Beef, my plant, and all other further processing plants which unwittingly purchase previously-contaminated meat, the incidence of consumer sicknesses will remain as is.
    We could use a contemporary Upton Sinclair. Only this time, the focus won’t be on the meat plants, but on a government agency which intentionally turns a blind eye to the SOURCE, while increasing its scrutiny at the DESTINATION. Egads folks, we are a bunch of idiots.
    John Munsell

  • John Munsell

    Ironically, Dr. James Marsden posted a blog on Meatingplace today entitled “The Problem with Eliminating the Symptom and Ignoring the Cause”, referring to e.coli 0157:H7. Talk about timely!
    Dr. Marsden’s concluding paragraph suggests a public hearing to discuss real solutions for E.coli, to evaluate actions that could eliminate the “root causes” of the problem. What a novel idea: identify and eliminate the cause!
    I respectfully challenge Bill Marler and all consumerist groups to advance the idea of such a public hearing, to join forces with Dr. Marsden, and to commit to aggressive involvement. Face it: although Mr. Marler has challenged the meat industry to “Put Him Out Of Business”, we cannot expect that either the meat industry or USDA/FSIS is interested in implementing policies which will reduce sicknesses, thus keeping Mr. Marler extremely busy. Bluntly speaking, USDA/FSIS should be considered an outsider in future progress, as it is monolitically opposed to actively scrutinizing the biggest slaughter plants. Pressure must come from outside sources, or absolutely zero progress will be made. John Munsell

  • NsP

    they do use a solution to kill the ecoli. i am one of a few (20+-) that are certified to do this. the problem is people are only there for easy money and dont care. I DO. there are a few things i would change to prevent this from happening again.