A nationwide recall of ground beef for potential E. coli contamination in Canada was officially linked to meat sold in the United Sates late Thursday when U.S. food safety authorities announced a recall of beef trimmings from the implicated Canadian company. The massive ground beef recall began last week when XL Foods, Inc. of Alberta, Canada recalled a series of ground beef products for a risk of E. coli contamination. The problem was discovered September 3 when samples of meat from XL Foods were tested at the U.S. border by the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), revealing the presence of E. coli O157:H7 in ground beef products. USDA informed the Canadian Food Inspection Agency of its findings, prompting further testing that confirmed the need to issue a recall of ground beef products in Canada on September 16. Over the following three days (Sept. 17, 18 and 19), the Canadian recall extended to include 17 brands and 12 non-branded meats sold nationwide, but the question remained whether or not the potentially contaminated meats had been distributed to the U.S., and FSIS had yet to announce a federal recall of XL Foods’ products in the U.S. as of Thursday afternoon. However on September 17, a handful of U.S companies announced that they had received and distributed meat from XL foods and issued their own voluntary recalls of these foods. Then late Thursday FSIS officially announced that potentially contaminated ground beef trimmings from XL Foods were distributed in the U.S. and are subject to a recall. The trimmings were distributed to establishments in California, Michigan, Nebraska, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin, according to the recall notice. FSIS says it is working to confirm that any potentially contaminated beef trimmings that entered the U.S. either received full lethality treatment (to kill pathogens) or was not distributed as a ready-to-eat product. The agency is investigating whether the affected product was sold for further processing into other products, such as ground beef, ground beef patties, beef jerky or pastrami. When available, a list of retailers who received the recalled beef products will be available on FSIS’s website. “We are working in cooperation with all processors and retailers that received this product and instructed them to remove all product from store shelves as quickly as possible,” says XL Foods in a recorded statement on its media relations phone line. The company says it is aware of some E. coli infections that are being investigated as potentially connected to the recalled product. “We understand there are some illnesses being investigated to determine a link between the recalled product,” says the company in its recording. However, “At this time no linkage has been determined,” the recording states. Symptoms of E. coli infection include nausea, stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhea that may become watery or bloody. If you think you may have contracted an E. coli infection, contact your healthcare provider.

  • John Munsell

    Hopefully, we are witnessing a watershed change in USDA’s attitude towards knowingly-contaminated meat products! But hold your breath, the jury is still out on this, and depends on future agency actions.
    In 2002, FSIS officials in Minneapolis and DC knew that one source slaughter provider sold me E.coli-laced coarse ground beef which I processed into fine ground beef. Subsequent FSIS testing revealed, on 3 consecutive days, that the meat harbored invisible E.coli O157:H7 bacterium. The fact that the meat producing adverse lab positives, on 3 separate days, was not only from the same source plant, but was also produced on the same day at the source plant, and all had the same batch number!
    So, how did FSIS & its allegedly “science based” meat inspection system respond to such overwhelming evidence? Well, FSIS did not allow me to grind under the Mark of Inspection for four months, as if that would prevent my supplier from ever again shipping E.coli-laced meat into commerce. How did the agency respond at the source plant? Quoting Elsa Murano, the agency went to the plant, and could not find anymore meat from the one production date; thus, no changes were required at the noncompliant SOURCE plant. Of ocurse no meat remained at the source plant, as it had been shipped into commerce! The agency should have “suggested” a recall of all coarse ground beef, from that one plant, from the one well-identified day in question. Well, no recall was performed, and the plant continued operations with no corrective actions to prevent recurrences. What should we have expected to occur in the future?
    Four months later, the same scenario played itself out at Galligans Meats in Denver, which also purchased coarse ground beef from the same source plant as I had. Subsequent agency testing at that plant likewise produced additional lab positives. Still reeling from congressional inquiries stemming from the agency’s mishandling of my plant four months earlier, FSIS was forced to remove its head from the sand, and a 19.1 million lb recall occurred……..at the SOURCE plant.
    FSIS can readily provide Food Safety News readers with the name of the source plant, the production date involved, and the batch number. All such info was well documented, providing incontravertible evidence which even USDA can’t hide forever.
    With this as background, it is ironic that in the case of Canadian-sourced meat, USDA is proactive in investigating the source and destination of contaminated meat, perfectly willing to issue Health Alerts, while FSIS-inspected plants are issuing recalls simultaneously. Same thing happened with the huge TOPPS recall a few years ago, stemming from unsafe meat purchased from another Canadian slaughter facility.
    When imported meat is involved, USDA does NOT falsely claim that tracebacks are difficult to accomplish, a common excuse used when contaminated meat sourced from the USA is involved.
    The presence of E.coli was detected by testing meat at our border. Just yesterday I read where USDA is suggesting minimizing the inspection of imported meat at our border. Unfortunate timing, but it clearly reveals that USDA is sold out to the prospect of unfettered, seamless international trade absent any artificial “protectionist”, “nationalistic” trade barriers which WTO would determine to be illegal restraints of international trade. I respectfully suggest that testing imported meat at our border is illegal.
    Egads folks, do you perceive the inherent danger in USDA’s unwillingness to trace back to DOMESTIC slaughter plants, while liberalizing importation of foreign meat absent meaningful scrutiny?
    Future events will reveal whether the agency’s primary focus is Food Safety, or unrestricted global trade.
    John Munsell

  • doc raymond

    John, a couple of things here:
    1. It was trim that tested positive at the border. No trace back to source needed as it was coming directly from XL. Question is why it takes 3 weeks to issue a public health alert from FSIS?
    2. The trace back in the TOPPS incident to Ranchers Beef was not easy. In fact, luck was involved. TOPPS purchased from many suppliers and we had many cases of O157 from eating TOPPS ground beef. What broke the case was a single O157 illness with identical PFGE that purchased their ground beef from another grinder. the only common source for the two producers was Ranchers Beef. This one occured on my watch, and i assure the readers we did not pursue naming the source only because it was a foreign establishment.

  • “When imported meat is involved, USDA does NOT falsely claim that tracebacks are difficult to accomplish, a common excuse used when contaminated meat sourced from the USA is involved.”
    it’s what the usda does. same with BSE. from 1985, to 2003, the usda dogged all exporting countries with BSE mad cow disease (rightfully so, with the BSE GBR risk assessments), until December 23, 2003. from that point on, the shoe was on the other foot. the usda and the oie systematically did away with the BSE GBR risk assessments, thus, the BSE MRR policy was born, the legal trading of all strains of TSE prion mad cow type disease. my point, the usda is nothing more than the industry, bound by industry, for the industry, nothing more. their number one goal is not food safety, in my opinion. it’s sell, sell, sell. so, i would expect nothing less. …