By Laurel Maloy, contributing writer, Food Online
A list of retail locations that may have received ground beef contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 has been updated by the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service
Recently updated, the new list includes the names of 19 retail establishments in 14 states: FL, GA, IL, IN, KY, MI, MN, NC, ND, OH, PA, TN, VA, and WI. The largest retailer to possibly receive the contaminated ground beef is Gordon Food Service Marketplace with stores in 10 states: FL, IL, IN, KY, MI, MO, OH, PA, TN, and WI. In the updated class I recall, FSIS (Food Safety Inspection Service) reiterates the fact that the list may not yet be complete and that all of the retail establishments on the list may not have received the recalled beef. Though an unknown number of restaurants may have also received the tainted ground beef, the names of those establishments have not been published by FSIS.
The 97 pages of products and the recall has not, and still does not, mention poultry. However, a spokesman for FSIS says it is important for all establishments, to use the product identification information available here.” He went on to caution all retail establishments to check all “meat or poultry products in your possession” to see if they have been recalled.” The largest portions of recalled product are pre-packaged, pre-formed beef patties and bulk-packaged ground beef, and ground chuck. Produced between March 31 and Apr 18, 2014, it is possible much of this beef is still in consumer’s or restaurant freezers.
The length of time it is taking FSIS to identify the establishments in receipt of the E. coli-contaminated beef is yet one more reason for improved traceability. The original recall was issued on May 19 and the investigation is moving forward slowly. FSIS itself makes clear that the retail list may not be accurate and has yet to release the restaurants possibly in receipt of this product. Recordkeeping along the entire supply chain is tantamount to being able to quickly and efficiently trace the distribution of adulterated food products. Digital recordkeeping and an electronic notification system would make the entire process much more efficient.
Many food processors and distributors are questioning the feasibility and costs of implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Yes, it may be time-consuming, and ultimately costly to put these safeguards in place. In fact, to some, it may seem like one more instance of the federal government overstepping its regulatory boundaries. The questions everyone in the food supply chain should be asking are: “What price tag can be put on the public’s health? How much is too much to spend to prevent illness and potentially save lives?”