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Pingree Urges USDA to Move Quickly on NE Outbreak

As an outbreak of antibiotic-resistant Salmonella linked to ground beef unfolds in the Northeast, Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) is asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture why it hasn’t found or revealed the source of contaminated meat.  

Pingree, who owns an organic farm in Maine and is an outspoken advocate for sustainable agriculture, asked USDA Wednesday if officials had made progress in pinpointing the source of contamination, according to The Portland Press Herald. So far, 16 people in seven states have been confirmed as part of the outbreak — seven people were hospitalized.

“We have asked them what is holding up (the investigation),” Pingree told the Portland Press Herald. “We get the same answer — that they are investigating the problem but are having a difficult time tracking down the sources of the meat.”

According to the local press report, the agency said last week that grocery chain Hannaford’s “limited records” were impeding the investigation and that the agency “is pursuing rule-making to address the concern.” If stores make their own ground beef, they are not currently required to keep track of which meat they use and where exactly it came from.

“That is currently voluntary,” Pingree said, according to the report. “This is a big system problem.”

Pingree is pressing USDA to get to the bottom of the outbreak.

“It is good for the USDA to give more information to the public,” Pingree said. “A case like this helps the public understand why we need more record-keeping and tracking.”

According to the Portland Press Herald, four Cumberland, ME residents were part of the outbreak. Two were hospitalized.

Pingree posted links relevant to the recall and outbreak updates on her congressional homepage for constituents looking for more information.

© Food Safety News
  • jmunsell

    Rep Chellie Pingree is perilously close to uncovering a persistent USDA secret: the agency monolithically opposes traceback to the slaughterhouse SOURCE. Why? Because successful tracebacks to the source slaughterhouses would reveal:
    1. USDA/FSIS is asleep at the wheel at the large slaughterhouses, by intentional agency design.
    2. FSIS knowingly allows the large slaughterhouses to ship into commerce an inappropriately high amount of pathogen-laced meat.
    3. FSIS’ current style of meat non-inspection, called HACCP, has deregulated the large source slaughter plants (while hyperregulating small plants), allowing the large plants to self-police, has forced the agency to disband its previous command-and-control protocol, requires the agency to utilize a “Hands Off” non-involvement, essentially eviscerating FSIS of any meaningful authority at the large plants.
    In spite of numerous pious proclamations emanating from USDA/FSIS, the agency refuses to mount aggressive traceback investigations to the SOURCE. FSIS is more focused on agency comfort, than on protecting public health. Too much discomfort, primarily legal in nature, would accompany any FSIS traceback to the largest slaughter establishments. FSIS fails to realize that our taxpayer dollars are not primarily intended to provide the agency comfort.
    Representative Pingree, your eyes are about to be opened.
    John Munsell

  • doc raymond

    John, in this case it is the grinder that is at fault for having no records of which sources it used in making the ground beef. FSIS cannot trace this back without proper record keeping.

  • jmunsell

    Hi Doc: You are precisely correct. My point is that when evidence-filled source records have been historically presented to FSIS, the agency adroitly avoids acting on the evidence. The best way to verify if this claim is true is to contact all plants which have been involved in recalls the last ten years, and ask them if the FSIS investigative team had any interest whatsoever in source information. Then ask the plant owners if they were able to provide the agency such itemized proof, did the agency aggressively perform a traceback to the source? Lastly, ask the grinding plant what the agency mandated the grinding plant implement for corrective actions to prevent their future reception of previously-contaminated meat. Such research is easily done: I’ve spoken to many such grinder operators. Take $10,000 out of the FSIS budget, hire a professional to do this research, then release all details to the media. FSIS would be ashamed.
    So, even if grinders accumulate truthful source evidence, FSIS (if it remains true to its historical behavior) dismisses the evidence as hearsay, and refuses to participate in a “Witch Hunt” (to quote the agency) which would clearly implicate a large source slaughter plant.
    Maybe Dr. Hagen and Al Almanza can force the agency to reverse course, and demand accountable behavior from their top staffers? This might be classified as “Mission Impossible”.
    John Munsell

  • John Munsell

    Rep Chellie Pingree is perilously close to uncovering a persistent USDA secret: the agency monolithically opposes traceback to the slaughterhouse SOURCE. Why? Because successful tracebacks to the source slaughterhouses would reveal:
    1. USDA/FSIS is asleep at the wheel at the large slaughterhouses, by intentional agency design.
    2. FSIS knowingly allows the large slaughterhouses to ship into commerce an inappropriately high amount of pathogen-laced meat.
    3. FSIS’ current style of meat non-inspection, called HACCP, has deregulated the large source slaughter plants (while hyperregulating small plants), allowing the large plants to self-police, has forced the agency to disband its previous command-and-control protocol, requires the agency to utilize a “Hands Off” non-involvement, essentially eviscerating FSIS of any meaningful authority at the large plants.
    In spite of numerous pious proclamations emanating from USDA/FSIS, the agency refuses to mount aggressive traceback investigations to the SOURCE. FSIS is more focused on agency comfort, than on protecting public health. Too much discomfort, primarily legal in nature, would accompany any FSIS traceback to the largest slaughter establishments. FSIS fails to realize that our taxpayer dollars are not primarily intended to provide the agency comfort.
    Representative Pingree, your eyes are about to be opened.
    John Munsell

  • John Munsell

    Hi Doc: You are precisely correct. My point is that when evidence-filled source records have been historically presented to FSIS, the agency adroitly avoids acting on the evidence. The best way to verify if this claim is true is to contact all plants which have been involved in recalls the last ten years, and ask them if the FSIS investigative team had any interest whatsoever in source information. Then ask the plant owners if they were able to provide the agency such itemized proof, did the agency aggressively perform a traceback to the source? Lastly, ask the grinding plant what the agency mandated the grinding plant implement for corrective actions to prevent their future reception of previously-contaminated meat. Such research is easily done: I’ve spoken to many such grinder operators. Take $10,000 out of the FSIS budget, hire a professional to do this research, then release all details to the media. FSIS would be ashamed.
    So, even if grinders accumulate truthful source evidence, FSIS (if it remains true to its historical behavior) dismisses the evidence as hearsay, and refuses to participate in a “Witch Hunt” (to quote the agency) which would clearly implicate a large source slaughter plant.
    Maybe Dr. Hagen and Al Almanza can force the agency to reverse course, and demand accountable behavior from their top staffers? This might be classified as “Mission Impossible”.
    John Munsell