A Los Angeles company is recalling approximately 377,775 pounds of ground beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced Tuesday.

Commercial Meat Co. was informed that routine FSIS monitoring confirmed a positive result for E. coli O157:H7 in beef products produced between Sept. 7 and Oct. 6, 2011. According to the FSIS news release, the company did not hold product pending test results, so the meat was recalled.

The recalled beef products was shipped to restaurants in California and Nevada, as well as one federal establishment in California for further processing.

There have been no reports of illnesses. 

The recalled ground beef products are:

— 5, 10, 15, 20, 30, 40, 50 and 60 lb. cases of bulk ground beef

— 5, 10 and 20 lb. cases of ground beef patties

— 10, 15, 20, 30, 40 and 50 lb. cases of ground beef taco

— 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50 and 60 lb. cases of ground beef chili

Each case bears a label with the establishment number “EST. 4873” inside the USDA mark of inspection. 

Consumers with questions regarding the recall should contact the company’s manager, Neil Brown, at 213-622-6997.

FSIS routinely conducts recall effectiveness checks to verify recalling firms notify their customers (including restaurants) of the recall and to ensure that steps are taken to make certain that the product is no longer available to consumers.

Ground beef should be cooked to a temperature of 160° F. The only way to confirm that ground beef is cooked to a temperature high enough to kill harmful bacteria is to use a food thermometer that measures internal temperature.

  • Proper cooking temperatures cannot be stressed enough when dealing with ground beef. I very often get the question “I don’t have to cook my steaks that long, why should I have to cook ground beef that long?” While steak is also susceptible, E Coli lives on the surface of the meat. If the outside is cooked, you should be fine. The problem with ground beef is that the surface is ground up and distributed throughout the entire portion of ground beef.

  • Lynda Leopold

    I cannot fathom why ground beef recalls continue to encompass such vast quantities. Am i to believe that the company processed 377,000 pounds of beef between cleaning or sanitation of equipment?
    Is there anyone reading this who can explain why the recall can’t be traced to smaller lots? Wouldn’t a daily micro swab or food sample provide more of a limit to the recall?
    $25 a day is a small price to pay compared to a month’s worth of production recalled.

  • Minkpuppy

    What could have happened here is co-mingling of ground beef or trimmings from the previous day of production with freshly ground beef coupled with poor documentation of what they did. It’s still quite common even though it makes it hard to pinpoint when the contamination occurred. FSIS can only recommend that they discontinue the practice–they can’t force them to stop.
    For example, let’s say Company ABC has been grinding beef all day then finds that it can’t get it all packaged and into the cooler before the work day ends. They decide to hold on to the leftover ground beef and package it after mixing it in with the next day’s production. Eventually you get a snowball effect with repetitive days of product co-mingling. If proper records aren’t kept, Company ABC has no idea how much product is actually contaminated so they’re stuck recalling all of it.
    The grinders I’ve inspected break down the day’s production into clearly indentifiable lots and perform thorough clean-ups between lots. They also avoid mixing multiple lots together.
    Something broke down here for sure. Maybe their lot size is just too dang big combined with the mixing of product from different lots. Maybe they aren’t cleaning between lots so there’s product left over getting mixed into the next lot. Maybe it’s the source of their trimmings that’s the true problem (see Mr. Munsell’s series for a excellent example). It’s hard to say without seeing the report from the inevitable but useless Food Safety Assessment that will come out of this recall.
    I’d be interested to find out the source of the trimmings used here. Are they using their own bench trimmings (bad idea due to inability to determine the true contamination source) or are they buying trimmings from someone else, say a big packer? We’ll have to wait and see if anything pops up from one of the big 3 to find out if FSIS’s directive on collecting supplier information means anything.

  • Lynda

    Thanks, Minkpuppy
    I’m in the food safety biz–thankfully, greenhouse produce, where the risk is relatively on the low side. However, I have a solid background in Microbiology, and this sort of situation seems very black and white to me.
    I can only imagine what a sham the food safety program is at this plant. Corporations need to get educated and realize that “Let’s just make it look good on paper” eventually kills people.

  • Minkpuppy

    I agree-FSIS-style HACCP continues to sicken and kill people even though the “paperwork looks great!”. FSIS needs to get their heads out of the sand as well and quit relying so much on the perfect HACCP plan. We need to get back to actual inspection.

  • Sandra

    Thanks Lynda and Minkpuppy for the question and answer given. I am a graduate studnt trying to understand the meat recall process. It seem Minkpuppy knows a lot about it. Is there a place or a reference that I can go to, so I can fully understand this? I had a copy of the FSIS Directive handout Recall of neat and Poultry products, but I will have some more info about this process. Thansk so much for any help you can provide.